I received a press release yesterday from the Prosecuting Attorney from the Second Judicial District. It says that Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington is asking the state police to open an investigation into suspected petition fraud occurring in his district on a couple of the ballot initiatives.
Good for Ellington. Someone needed to look into this. But the timing of the release brings out the cynic in me since Ellington is also currently running for Congress.
Perhaps Ellington wants to see his name in the paper for some reason other than having to switch campaign managers only months before the primary. He replaced Arkansas consultant Mariah Hatta with a Washington, D.C. based fundraiser Mark Warren.
It could also be that Ellington wants to take the focus off the one year anniversary this weekend of the release of the three men convicted of killing three young boys in West Memphis.
No, that would be cynical and I am sure Ellington would not use his position as prosecutor to further his race for Congress. It must be that he knows I am following the petition story closely and wants to keep me in the loop on his investigation. Right?
Anyway, here is the press release…
Prosecutor calls for investigations into possible fraudulent signatures on two ballot initiatives
JONESBORO, ARK.—Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro has called for two law enforcement investigations into suspicions of fraudulent signatures on two separate ballot initiatives. One of those referendums calls for an increase on the state’s severance tax, while another asks for a constitutional amendment to allow four casinos in the state of Arkansas.
Ellington received several calls alleging fraudulent signatures on a ballot initiative to increase the state’s severance tax. Many of those were purported to be signatures of residents of Mississippi County, which is located within Ellington’s judicial district. Certain residents of Mississippi County, whose signatures are reflected on the ballot initiative petition, have signed sworn affidavits alleging that they never signed any petition to get the issue on the ballot. It was not clear whether these incidents occurred in Mississippi County or elsewhere, Ellington said.
Ellington wrote to Captain Henry La Mar, East Region Commander of the Arkansas State Police’s Criminal Investigation Division, on July 30, 2012 asking that a criminal investigation be opened to determine whether any criminal violations had occurred. La Mar confirmed in a written letter to Ellington on August 3 that he was authorizing an Arkansas State Police investigation into the matter.
Similar allegations into Nancy Todd’s casino proposal have surfaced in Crittenden and Craighead Counties, Ellington said.
“Several residents of Craighead and Crittenden County deny signing the petition, which allows casinos in the state,” Ellington said. “This is certainly questionable, and I have asked Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann and Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen to look into this matter.”
Ellington took into consideration that approximately 56,000 of the 80,000 signatures statewide were kicked off the casino petition as being possibly fraudulent.
“It was an extreme amount of signatures statewide, nearly 70 percent, that were questionable and removed from the casino ballot initiative petitions,” Ellington said. “Some of those suspected phony signatures were in Craighead and Crittenden Counties. As such, I am engaging local law enforcement agencies to investigate these allegations, and to report their findings to me. If these allegations are true, the responsible person(s) will be held accountable.”