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Poll Watchers Present During Civil Rights Ordinance Special Election

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) – Two registered poll watchers have been present during the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance special election, officials say. The t...

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) – Two registered poll watchers have been present during the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance special election, officials say.

The two poll watchers were identified as John La Tour and Paul Phaneuf, according to the Washington County Clerk’s office. La Tour won his bid for a Fayetteville City Council seat in the November election, but Phaneuf lost his race in a runoff against Adella Gray.

The civil rights ordinance, also known as Ordinance 119, was passed by the Fayetteville City Council in August. It prohibits local businesses and entities from discriminating against employees and customers based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors. Opponents of Ordinance 119 gathered enough signatures to force a special election, which has been set for Dec. 9.

Early voting for the special election began on Dec. 1.

According to the Washington County Clerk’s office, registered poll watchers are allowed to:

  • Observe the election officials.
  • Stand close enough to the place where voters check in to vote so as to hear the voter’s name.
  • Compile lists of persons voting.
  • Challenge ballots upon notification to an election official before the voter signs the precinct voter registration list and upon completing a “challenged ballot form.”
  • Call to the attention of the election sheriff any occurrence believed to be an irregularity or violation of election law (the poll watcher can’t discuss the occurrence unless the election sheriff invites them to, though).
  • Be present at the opening, processing and canvassing of absentee ballots for the purpose of challenging absentee votes in the manner provided by law for personal voting challenges.

Registered poll watchers are not allowed to:

  • Be within six feet of any voting machine or booth used by voters to cast their ballot.
  • Speak to any voter or in any way attempt to influence a voter inside the polling site or within 100 feet of the primary exterior entrance used by voters to enter the building containing the polling site.
  • Disrupt the orderly conduct of the election.

To view a complete list of rules for registered poll watchers, click here. 

As of Friday (Nov. 5) at 12 p.m., a total of 2,618 early ballots had been cast, officials said.

Both La Tour and Phaneuf have stated that they don’t support Ordinance 119. On La Tour’s election website, he states, “I believe in equal rights for everyone. In its current form, I cannot support this ordinance and will fight to change it. It overreaches and grants rights to some at the expense of others. That is not equal rights.”

Phaneuf has also spoken out against Ordinance 119 on his election website, saying, it assaults common sense and liberty. He also said it violates conscience and the Arkansas constitution.

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