King: Carroll County 'Poster Child' for election reform

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

BERRYVILLE -- "Carroll County is a poster child for reform," said Republican Sate Representative Bryan King regarding three bills he is proposing for the 2009 Arkansas Legislature's consideration.

That could be an overstatment, but his three proposed bills address election commissioners' term limits and ethics, and disclosure of their business dealings or contracts to the Arkansas Legislative Council for review.

Looking at state law, it is peculiar that an Arkansas Highway Department Commissioner cannot award a construction contract to his company, yet a county election commissioner can legally rent real estate to a county.

In 2007 the county paid $9,825 to a county election commissioner, all but $125 of which was for rent of two buildings, one which houses voting machines when not in use.

But that near $10,000 figure is skewed, as the City of Berryville pays a share of the rent on the second building to the county, which passes it along with its payment.

King also contends that the election commissioner receives a substantial income from two other buildings he rents to the state, which he says is at least $83,000 per year.

King's political roots are in agricultural lobbying and service on the Carroll County Election Commission. He is a Republican.

Still, he denies that his bills are directed specifically toward the personalities of the Democratic Party-controlled election commission in?Carroll County.

"Is it really personal when you want to stop something going on here?" he asked. "I don't care if it's a Republican or Democrat. "

While King proposes election commissioner terms be limited to 14 years, the figure is subject to change. Election commissions in?Arkansas are comprised of two persons from the county's majority party, and one from the minority party, and three-year terms are drawn by lot.

Law presently makes no allowances for representation of a third party.

But equally important, or perhaps more so, to King is the amount of money Carroll County has spent on lawsuits brought on by questionable election practices.

King notes that Boone County and, he believes, Madison County have spent nothing on election lawsuits, while Carroll County has literally spent several thousand dollars in recent years.

"I think our elections need to be reformed, and it is definitely wrong to award yourself a contract," King said.

King outlines the essence of the three proposed bills as follows:

"1. Term limits for election commissioners. Being an elected official I still believe in term limits. I do think the term could be a bit longer. I will propose a total of 14 years on election commissioners.

"2. Election commissioners should not receive business from the election commission. This ethical breach would equal a county judge or (justice of the peace) awarding themselves a contract. A highway department commissioner can not award himself a construction contract.

"3. All election commissioners would have to have any business dealings or contracts reviewed by?Arkansas Legislative Council. This is the same process for a State representative or State Senator receiving contracts from the State. This process would 'shine a light' on any business dealings by election commissioners and make our government and elections more ethical."

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