Fouke, Arkasas -- With a four-way mayor’s race and four contested city council seats, the number of registered voters in Fouke has increased, according to election officials.
Ann Nicholas, county clerk and voter registrar for Miller County, said 525 people have registered to vote in the City of Fouke as of Wednesday afternoon?about 80 more registered voters than in the 2004 general election.
Nicholas said the deadline to register to vote in the general election is Oct. 9, but the courthouse will be closed Monday. Those who want to register and have not, must do so today.
“Registration forms are always available at Fouke City Hall as well as online. Many churches and organizations provide registration applications during election cycles,” Nicholas said.
Nicholas said a female Fouke resident picked up 100 voter registration forms, but 100 forms had not been returned from the Fouke area as of Wednesday.
Tony Alamo, the controversial founder of Tony Alamo Ministries, said he has registered to vote in the Nov. 7 general election and he is urging members of his church to do the same.
“We do encourage people to vote. For a long time I haven’t voted, but I am voting this time,” said Alamo in a telephone interview Thursday.
He said voting “is a private thing” and he is not endorsing candidates running for mayor or the City Council.
Tony Alamo Ministries became an issue with residents and the city council after armed guards from R&G Security, employed by the group, stopped motorists from traveling onto South Circle Drive. The street is about 500 feet in length and ends at the property line of the church. The ministry reportedly owns houses on both sides of the street.
The security company has also stopped motorists from driving onto the property or parking lot of the ministries headquarters on the east side of U.S. Highway 71.
Alamo said a gunshot hit a window in the church about six months ago and R&G Security was hired to protect the entrances to the property. The security company is paid about $6,000 every two weeks to guard the entrance to South Circle Drive. The ministry has purchased the property on both sides of the street.
Complaints about the street not being accessible were made to Alamo and the mayor.
Alamo said the mayor and some of the people who work in city hall have attended the church and understand the security issue. The security company has now been asked to stay at the end of the dead-end street and not to stop anyone.
Alamo says he is becoming a “political football” and has been accused of giving money to the incumbent Mayor Cecil Smith.
“That is a dirty lie. I swear before almighty God, I’ve never given one penny to the mayor,” said Alamo.
He said he has also been accused of trying to put “his people in office.” Alamo denied those accusations and said, “Jesus was also falsely accused.”
“Anyone can vote and if they want liars in office, they have the right to vote them in,” he said. “Some have been promising to chase me out of town. I just want to see them run me out of town.
“A lot of people believe in our ministry, unfortunately not here in Fouke,” said Alamo.
Nicholas said Alamo filled out the voter registration application and it’s being processed.
“We’ve had an upswing in voter registration in the last few weeks with a large number from the Fouke area, but there is no way to determine it. I don’t know if all of the people who have registered to vote live on the property of the Tony Alamo ministries,” said Nicholas.
Apparently, people who live on the ministry’s property have a common address with a post office box. Several from that address have registered to vote, but Nicholas has no estimate on the total numbers until after the deadline to register.
“When people provide a legal identification with their name, address and birth date and it matches the information on the voter registration card, that is the end of the voter registration process,” said Nicholas. “The possibility of questions or concerns about the validity of the address would have to be dealt with through the provisional voting process at the polls on election day.”
If questions arise over the validity of the voter or the voter’s address on election day, the person will cast a provisional ballot, Nicholas said.
A registered poll watcher is allowed inside the polls as observer and may challenge the ballots of voters, usually based on identity, address or date of birth of the voter, says Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels in the Pocket Guide to Voting in the Natural State.
The poll watcher must complete a challenged ballot form and the person then will vote on a paper provisional ballot. The ballot is then sealed in the envelope and the envelope marked “provisional voter.”
The election official must maintain a separate list of names of provisional voters.
All provisional ballots must be preserved, secured and separated from the remaining ballots so the county board of election commissioners can verify registration and determine whether the votes may be counted.
Before the results of the election are certified, the county board of election commissioners must determine whether the provisional ballots are valid.
If the commissioners suspect elections laws have been violated, they may refer the matter to the prosecuting attorney, said the voting guide.