LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Friday morning, a lawsuit involving the misspelling of a senate candidate’s name saw its first hearing, with the judge refusing to issue an order but leaving the case open.
Earlier this week, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Jake Bequette filed a lawsuit claiming election fraud after his name was spelled “Jack Bequette” on two counties’ primary ballots.
The suit includes Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, the State Elections Commission, and county election commissioners for Phillips and Craighead counties.
Bequette says when early voting kicked off Monday, he was made aware by “multiple voters” that his name was listed incorrectly.
In the lawsuit, he claims Craighead officials were told about the error on April 28th after being contacted by the Secretary of State’s office, but no changes were made to the ballot until after early voting had already begun.
This was confirmed in a statement made by the Secretary of State’s office, who said they were “disappointed” by the inaction after the county had been promptly informed. Phillips County officials were told May 6, that the lawsuit continues, and also acted too late.
According to lawyers for the State Elections Commission and Phillips County, both counties have since either corrected the name on electronic voting machines and paper ballots or are in the process of correcting the name.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce asked what else he could order if the issue seemed to be fixed, with Bequette’s team saying they wanted a notice sent to all voters explaining the mistake.
Pierce said he would hold off for now as he wasn’t willing to risk further confusing voters or giving the Bequette team an edge over other candidates. He did admit he found it disturbing that the counties had known for days of the issue but didn’t have it fixed until after early voting began.
Attorneys for the Secretary of State’s office said all other ballots for Arkansas counties have been checked and they are all correct with “Jake Bequette” clearly listed.
Bequette stated that he will continue to call on John Thurston and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to investigate the matter.
Judge Mackie Pierce called the situation ‘deeply troubling,’ and rightfully so. Several weeks have passed since the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office and multiple county election officials knew my name was going to be wrong on thousands of ballots, and the situation has still not been fixed in all 75 Arkansas counties. Election officials initially told my campaign that the problem could not be fixed, period. Now, they’re claiming that the errors will be fixed in a matter of days. President Ronald Reagan famously said, ‘Trust, but verify.’ As this debacle continues to unfold, I’m skipping the ‘trust’ and going directly to ‘verify.’Jake Bequette
Bequette reacted to the hearing, saying “this is just the beginning” and his team plans on investigating the mistake and continuing with the suit.