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Election Commission Has No Authority to Determine Residency of Candidate


Polk County Election Commission Chairman David Ray stated today that the Polk County Election Commission did not make a scheduled trip to Hatfield on Wednesday afternoon that was meant to determine the residency status of David Harris, who is running for the position of Alderman of the Town of Hatfield.

A complaint was recently filed by the Town of Hatfield that stated Harris was not a legal resident inside the city limits of Hatfield, and therefore, ineligible to run for the elected position. During Tuesday’s meeting of the Election Commission, Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner stated that he had researched the case and that he has no authority over civil cases, only criminal, and could not make the call as to Harris’ residency.

At that time, the Election Commission decided to travel to the property in question. However, after further researching the subject, it was found that the commission also has no authority to deem a candidate’s residency and the case would have to proceed to the civil court system to determine eligibility. This was determined by a comparable case found by the Attorney for the Arkansas State Election Commission that was sent to Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner who then forwarded the letter to Ray.

According to the case, State v. Craighead County Board of Election Commissioners:

“The determination of eligibility may often require more than mere ministerial action. Here, the determination of residence requires an exploration of the candidates’ intentions and conduct. Ark. Code Ann. 14-14-1306(c) (1987). The question of whether a candidate is of good moral character likewise cannot be answered without delving into the facts. To allow the board to consider disputed facts, make findings, and act thereon, is to put it in the same posture as a judicial tribunal. The board, being a ministerial entity, simply does not have that power.” 

The determination of the Polk County Election Commission is that they have no authority over this matter. It would be up to the complainant (Town of Hatfield) or citizens of Hatfield to file the case in civil court.

Mayor Larry Stricklin was unavailable for comment. Harris has no opponents and also has not been reached for comment.

Futures developments in this story will be posted as soon as they are received.

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