Secretary of State Mark Martin has denied the petition submitted by Curtis Varnell of Paris to run as an independent candidate for State Representative for District 74 which consists of Logan County as well as small parts of Sebastian and Yell counties.
The reason given by the Secretary of State, Varnell said in a prepared release last week, was that an insufficient number of signatures was presented by Varnell.
Varnell said his position is that the Secretary of State’s action are both biased and politically motivated.
“The Secretary of State first told me we need 243 signatures,” states Varnell. “I and a friend traveled to the office with 300 signatures the week prior to the May cut-off date for the signatures to be turned in. We discussed this with the election representative from our region and stated to him that the reason we visited early was to make sure we had an adequate number of signatures.
“He assured us he would let us know the exact number we had or needed that week. On the weekend prior to the cut-off date, I received a note from the Secretary of State office stating that I had 255 official signatures but needed 261. On Monday, one day prior to the cut-off date, I and two assistants travelled to Little Rock with 119 more signature collected over the weekend. The office refused to accept them, stating that we had only one opportunity to submit, even though we clearly were told we had a week more before the submission date.”
The would-be candidate is displeased.
“We turned in 519 signatures and Martin is trying to tell us he could not or would not find the required number of 261,” he said. “In fact, when we returned he had lowered the previous legal signature count from 255 down to 211 signatures. More than 300 people that signed the petition are being denied the right to vote for whom they choose. This is clearly a violation of my, as well as others, rights.”
Varnell said he spoke with his lawyer as well as a former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice before making the decision to not take the issue to court.
“Both stated that they thought I could win the case but, facing the legal team paid by the Secretary of State and having the case tried in Little Rock would be prohibitively expensive for a person with limited funds,” said Varnell. “Additionally, the case would not be decided until fall which would not leave me time to campaign.
“I will continue my campaign. The term is just two years long. I am in for the long haul. I brought up some important issues and I think I made a difference in the race this year. I will run next term and I will run as a party member. Party members do not have to collect one signature. I now know how the game is played.”