County: Courthouse did not close early on recount deadline

The Republican member of the Faulkner County Election Commission said today that he was at the courthouse waiting for County Clerk candidate Marvin Lessmann on May 22 at 4:33 p.m. — three minutes after the deadline to file a petition for a recount in the May 20 primary election.

Lessmann has claimed that he was on the courthouse steps at 4:28 or 4:29 p.m. on that day to file the petition for a recount, but the door was locked.

Unofficial but complete Faulkner County election results show that Lessmann lost the Republican Party primary election for the position 3,808 votes to Deputy County Clerk Margaret Darter’s 4,484. 

Paul Foster, the Republican commissioner, said that Lessmann had called him earlier on May 22 to let him know that he would be filing a recount petition, and that he, County Clerk Melinda Reynolds, Democratic Party Election Commissioner Betty Pickett and the clerk’s office staff were there expecting him.

When he never showed up, Foster said, he assumed that Lessmann had changed his mind about a recount.

The County Clerk’s office has given the Log Cabin Democrat a piece of paper with filemarks at 4:27, 4:29 and 4:30 on May 22 with the words “This was done on 5/22/14 for the purpose of anyone that wanted to file a petition for a recount. My office staff and two election commissioners [were] present at the time of closing” written on it.

Lessmann was told today that Foster and the county clerk’s staff claimed to have been waiting for him at 4:30 p.m. and a few minutes after, and that they say he never showed up. He said he maintained his version of events, and couldn’t explain the inconsistency between his and their stories. 

"I got out of my car at 4:28; I walked up the steps at 4:29; I rattled the door; I tried the back door; I looked back down and my phone said 4:31," Lessmann said this afternoon. He also said the reason he waited until the last — the very last — minute was because he had been busy trying to get precinct-by-precinct results.

Lessmann and Foster both said they were relying on their cell phones to note the time. If Lessmann had called again to say he would be late, Foster said, someone would have been there waiting on him, but no call came. 

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