Former Justice of the Peace Bill “Pete” Pedersen, 70, of Cabot denied claims of attempted voter fraud, brought against him following early voting for the Cabot runoff election held at the end of November last year.
“I may have broke the law, but that wasn’t intended,” Pedersen said.
During a June 21 emergency election commission meeting, Pedersen did ask that his reply to election commissioner Camille Bennett’s letter from May go in the the minutes, but the request was denied by the commission. The commission did however, note to have the minutes reflect that Pedersen’s reply had been received.
In his reply, Pedersen said “I feel that this is a personal vendetta against me. I can assure you that I take pride in my country. I take pride in our election process, and I take pride in my country that I live it. You can rest assured that I would never do anything that would jeopardize and election.”
Pedersen has served as Justice of the Peace and is registered as a Republican. He has also ran for Mayor of Cabot along with County Assessor and lost on those occasions.
At the May 17 commission meeting, Bennett said she had spoken with prosecuting attorney Chuck Graham, who has declined to prosecute Pedersen and believed the system had done its job.
Bennett said her concern was the lack of respect Pedersen has for the election process that was the most concerning, however she recommended the election commission not refer the case to the federal prosecutors. It was discussed that Bennett send a letter to Pedersen, stating that the commission takes violations seriously and that any further violations would be prosecuted by the election commission.
Pedersen said it all started on Nov. 28 when he entered the polling site at the Cabot Annex building for the ward 3, position 1 alderman’s run off election after picking his wife up on her lunch break. He said he had previously heard rumors people were able to vote twice at the Cabot Annex building polling site and thought he would ask and see if it was true. Knowing he had previously voted days before with his son, he entered the site with his wife, who was voting, handed over his driver’s license to the poll worker and said he would like to know if he had already voted. Pedersen was then informed he had not voted, he explained that he indeed had. He said it wasn’t until his information was manually entered into the system on a separate tablet, that he had already cast his ballot.
Pedersen said this was not the first time he has checked the election system and had discussed it years ago with former county clerk Larry Clarke. It was then, Pedersen said Clark said the showed him how the system would show if a voted has already voted. Pedersen said he then he confirmed this at the England, Lonoke and Carlisle polling sites.
“Larry Clarke would have never let me do it if it was illegal,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen said he did not know there had been any complaints filed on him, and even prior to his knowledge informed the Lonoke County Republican Party what he had done and why, and the results.
“If I wanted to, I could have voted,” Pedersen said he explained at the Republican party meeting
While Pederson admits to attempting to test the voting system that day, he says he had no intention of voting twice. He said he specifically asked to check and see if he had already voted.
“If I knew it was a violation of the law, I would have never done it,” Pedersen said.
According to the November election commission minutes and statements made by both poll workers and the election sheriff, Pedersen entered the Cabot polling site on Nov. 28 and assuming he wanting to vote, poll worker Ina Kilgore began checking him in. During the sign in process, Pedersen then informed poll workers he had already voted. Since Kilgore’s iPad showed he had not voted, she then proceeded to ask poll worker John Gundel to check his name, who confirmed Pedersen as having already voted. Election sheriff Eleanor Swineford then checked the sign in sheet which also showed Pedersen as having already voted. Pedersen then said he was “just checking” it.
At a following election commission meeting, the commission found Pedersen had attempted to vote illegally and referred the matter to Graham. Pedersen told a similar story, that he was just checking the system, at a January election commission meeting.
Pedersen was arrested Nov. 1, 2012 on a misdemeanor assault complaint filed by Justice of the Peace Henry “H.L.” Lang, following a polling site event. Pedersen was later found guilty of the misdemeanor.
According to the complaint, filed at the sheriff’s office, Lang said he was near the Cabot City Annex, sitting in a chair holding campaign signs, when he heard “What sounded like a vehicle rush up behind him” and a horn blowing.
Lang said he turned and saw a vehicle “just a couple of inches” from his chair, and saw the driver was Pedersen, who was yelling and cursing at him. The car then backed up and left the area.
Pedersen said the incident was “strictly personal and had nothing to do with the election process.”