A few of my readers asked me about a letter from Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington regarding voter intimidation in the upcoming primary, so I inquired with his office about this information. I am not altogether sure it is all that newsworthy, but people are asking about it and I thought I would at least give you the facts.
The letter was sent from Ellington to Ruby Jean Boxley – a retired school teacher in Marked Tree. The letter is dated April 5, 2012, and according to Ellington, is a follow up on an accusation of voter intimidation regarding absentee ballots from 2010.
“As you are aware, during the general election of 2010, allegations of voter intimidation were made against you for your role in the handling of absentee ballots,” wrote Ellington in the letter. “As the 2012 election season gets underway, and the primary election of May 22, 2012 draws near, I would advise you to stay clear of any potential election controversy. If my office receives any complaints of improper absentee ballot handling or any type of election fraud by you, or anyone else, I will request the Arkansas State Police to investigate those allegations. If the investigation reveals that criminal violations have occurred, my office will file criminal charges against the responsible person(s).”
“Please consider this letter as your ONLY warning,” concludes Ellington.
I asked Ellington for details regarding the charges made against Boxley and he pointed me to a 2010 investigation by the Arkansas State Police made at the request of deputy prosecutor Martin Lilly. The investigation is based on charges from Patrice Powell – a college student in Marked Tree. Powell claims that Boxley assisted her with her absentee ballot, but tried to get her to vote for a different mayor candidate than she wanted to. Boxley said she helped Powell with the ballot because Powell said she was going to vote for Dixon Chandler; however, Powell instead ended up voting for Wayne Nichols. This led to a testy back-and-forth between the two, but Powell ultimately ended up voting for Nichols.
You can read the full accounts from both according to the ASP interviews here. Nichols was ultimately successful in unseating incumbent Marked Tree Mayor Chandler. I am not sure how many of the mayor votes were absentee votes, but for Poinsett County 612 were absentee votes out of 6,556 total votes cast. That’s a pretty hefty absentee percentage.
A 2004 profile in the Poinsett County’s Democrat Tribute describes Boxley as “dear to the hearts of people of all ages in Marked Tree” and “loved for her contributions to the town as an educator, as a mother and as a friend.” She retired from teaching in 1989 after teaching for nearly three decades. She is a member of the Marked Tree Historical Society, Marked Tree Friends of the Library, served on the school board, and is a long-time member of First United Methodist Church. You can also find her recipes for Chicken Pot Pie here. It’s a classic profile of your typical hardened criminal. You can see her pictures below in front of a stained glassed window at the Marked Tree Library dedicated in her honor.
The question from those who first mentioned the letter to me was: Is it appropriate for Ellington to send out considering he is on the ballot for Congress in this primary and did he send any more such letters out?
According to Ellington (and in response to a Freedom of Information Request sent to his office), this was the only such letter and it was sent to deal with this one case instead of pressing charges.
So there you go.