Attorneys for the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office said on Tuesday that, in their opinions, Faulkner County Clerk Melinda Reynolds would not be the responsible party if claims that county election officials failed to verify signatures on absentee ballots are true.

Marvin Lessmann resigned from the Faulkner County Election Commission on Thursday, saying that Reynolds had broken state law by not verifying these signatures and that he could do more to correct what he sees as flaws in the local election process from outside the commission. Since then he has called for Reynolds’ resignation.

Tim Humphries, chief counsel for the Arkansas Secretary of State, said on Tuesday that if there is a problem with verifying the signatures, the blame would lie with the election commission and the election officials appointed by them to verify votes. 

Both Humphries and Joe Woodson, an attorney with the Secretary of State’s office, agreed that a county clerk was not considered an election official, and therefore not responsible for ensuring that signatures are verified.

As far as determining to a certainty whether or not the signatures were verified, Humphries said that the only documentation he knew of would be the word of the election officials who would be charged with verifying them.

Debbi Manning, who said that she has been an election official tasked with handling absentee ballots for more than 10 years, said on Tuesday that verifying signatures was a standard practice by election officials on election nights, and that in the years she has served as Chief Election Judge over absentee vote counting she has ensured that this was done.