A Republican election commissioner and volunteer poll watcher has been accused of voter intimidation after he tried to drive away voters from an early-voting polling place in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The man, Stu Soffer, is a prominent Trump supporter who serves on the election commission of the majority-black Jefferson County. He has been the subject of national scrutiny before, most notably when he brandished a gun at an Election Commission meeting this Spring and then followed it up with quid-pro-quo corruption over the summer.
Now, Soffer is facing suit in the local circuit court after Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson and unrelated Pine Bluff voter Victor Johnson accused him of “interfering with and intimidating voters” at the Jefferson County Courthouse on October 24. According to attorney Chris Burks, who is representing Mr. Johnson, Soffer “stood in the doorway of the early voting location and told voters to ‘shut up and go home.’”
Johnson states in his filings that he was waiting in line at the polling place when Soffer entered with a TV reporting crew. When a county sheriff told Soffer that the TV crew was causing a disturbance and ordered one of its members to leave, Soffer apparently blocked the door to the voting booths and yelled at the assembled citizens to “shut up and go home.” The suit filed by Mr. Johnson states that, “as a result of the disruption caused by Stu Soffer and other Republicans I was not able to cast my ballot that day.” Dozens of other likely voters were apparently turned away in similar fashion.
Soffer resigned his position as a poll watcher in the aftermath of the incident, but the suit filed on behalf of Mr. Johnson is seeking to have him removed from his position on the county election commission as well. Soffer refused to comment when contacted by local publication Arkansas Online and a hearing date is yet to be set for the case.
This admittedly localized incident comes against a backdrop of a massive campaign of voter suppression targeting minority communities that is underway across the nation, usually justified by the chimera of voter fraud. Republican officials and commissioners, knowing that Trump’s bigoted rhetoric will cost them the election in any fair vote, are using every dirty trick in the book to suppress minority turnout in a campaign of intimidation that a federal judge in North Carolina rightly characterized as “insane” and “like something that was put together in 1901.”
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James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.