Sebastian County Election Commission Chairman Jason Vineyard was removed from the election commission Monday (Sept. 12) following notice from the Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that his voter registration should be canceled.
Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue instructed the Sebastian County Clerk’s office Monday that Vineyard’s voter registration should be canceled, though he did not offer an opinion on whether Vineyard could remain chairman of the election commission. In an opinion letter to Sebastian County Clerk Sharon Brooks, Shue states that it is not disputed that Vineyard pled guilty to charges of overdraft, a Class B felony.
Vineyard was charged in 2002 with felony overdraft after writing more than $20,000 in hot checks. The court records show he was ordered to pay restitution, court cost and other fees. However, Vineyard has not fully paid restitution and other fines, and his case remains active.
Shue said the court withheld imposition of sentence for a period of 10 years based on condition of good behavior and the payment of restitution.
“For some yet to be determined reason, the Circuit Clerk (at the time) either failed to notify the County Clerk (at the time) of this conviction in 2003 or the County Clerk did not cancel his voter registration back in 2003. Therefore, it is the opinion of this office that Jason Andrew Vineyard has been convicted of a felony, that he has not satisfied the ‘other terms of [his] sentence,’ and, thus has not discharged his sentence or been pardoned, and it is your duty as the permanent registrar, to cancel his registration,” Shue noted in his letter.
Larry Bishop, chairman of the Sebastian County Republican Committee, said Monday that when the county clerk’s office canceled Vineyard’s voter registration, he was removed as chairman of the election commission.
Arkansas law mandates that in January of each odd-numbered year, three members of the county board of election commissioners are named. Two of the members come from the county committee of the majority party, and one member from the county committee of the minority party. A majority party, as determined by state law, is the political party with the majority of candidates elected to the state’s constitutional offices. Arkansas has seven constitutional offices, and all are now held by members of the Republican Party of Arkansas.
When asked if or how a person is vetted before being appointed to the election commission, Shue said there is “a laundry list of people” who should do that to ensure a qualified person is appointed. Vineyard was elected to the commission by the Sebastian County Republican Party. He succeeded David Damron who resigned in January.
Bishop said before the committee appoints a chairman or member to the commission, that person is interviewed by the committee as a whole. The candidates must be registered voters and members of the Sebastian County Republican Committee to serve on the commission, he said. The members then serve at the pleasure of the committee. They are replaced if they resign, move or are removed, he said.
“We looked at (Vineyard’s) voting registration (before he was appointed),” Bishop said. “He was a registered voter. We did not know about something that had happened in 2003. Apparently something happened in the offices of the then circuit clerk or the then county clerk and he remained a registered voter. … It’s just a really weird situation, and we wish Mr. Vineyard all the best in getting this resolved,” he said.
The Republican committee is hoping to fill the now vacant position quickly, Bishop said.
“This is very important, and we are already looking for names to put on a list who we know and are qualified. We hope to start the interviews as soon as we can,” Bishop said.