Two Rivers Schools Accused of Voter Suppression

Perry County officials to file complaint with Secretary of State's office

PERRY, Ark. -- Perry County officials plan to file a formal complaint with the Secretary of State's office following accusations of voter suppression by the Two Rivers School District.

The district, which serves portions of both Yell and Perry counties, is asking taxpayers for a millage extension to pay for an elementary school safe room. Problem is -- the Perry County Election Commission says the school board never notified it about Tuesday's election. No polling places in Perry means having to drive to Yell County to cast a ballot.

For Jennifer Simo-Nis, a Perry County resident who lives within the Two Rivers district, that means a 45 minute drive. That distance is the reason her kids don't attend Two Rivers in the first place.

"We would like to be able to not take off work for half a day to go do our right and vote," she said.

Like many in Perry County, Simo-Nis knew nothing about the bond election until days ago, after much of the early voting period had already come and gone.

"It's not that hard to put a free ad in a local paper," explained Don Shamsie, head of the Perry County Republican Party.

A Two Rivers Facebook post claims it requested six polling places when it called for the election, but the Yell County Election Commission only granted it two.

"You openly try to deceive the people of Perry County in order to pay for the benefit of Two Rivers, and that's wrong" said Shamsie, calling the situation the "definition of voter suppression."

Simo-Nis says she doesn't know if poor communication or blatant disrespect is to blame for lack of Perry County notification, but she does know one thing: come Tuesday, she won't be voting "Yes" on the millage extension.

Two Rivers Superintendent admits he did not notify Perry County elections officials about the vote. Other than that, he believes the district did everything by the book to let taxpayers know about it.

Perry County will have to wait until polls close in Tuesday's election to file its complaint. Those filing hope it will eventually invalidate the election.


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