Leader Blues

Friday, June 16, 2006

TOP STORY>> More votes show up

By John Hofheimer
Leader staff writer


IN SHORT: Following numerous voting woes and problems with new electronic equipment, the quorum court might appoint a part-time coordinator to assist the election commission.


Wayne McGee went to bed Tuesday night thinking voters had elected next mayor of Lonoke—no Republicans or independents filed for the November general election—by a margin of 483 to 270 over Jim Parks, and that’s what this newspaper and local television and radio announced.


“We left (the Lonoke County Courthouse) between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.,” said McGee and he thought the official but uncertified vote was the 483-270.


But this is not “Dewey-defeats-Truman” story.


McGee awoke to discover that he was still the winner, but the actual count was 630 votes to 360. The election commission will meet Monday to certify the election results.


But the runoff election ran quite smoothly compared to the actual primary, where the various new touch screen IvoTronic voting machines and the optical scanner were programmed incorrectly by the contractor, ES&S, both prior to the election and again when after votes could not be correctly counted.


Votes were finally counted in the May 23 primary on May 27.


HIRE COORDINATOR?


At Thursday night’s Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting, JP Joe Gunther said he would propose at the July meeting that the county hire a part-time election coordinator to help the three-member election commission.


Gunther said other counties were hiring coordinators, and that while he thought the Lonoke County Election Commission did the best job possible under the circumstances, that it was time to hire a professional to take some of the burden off them.
Of the 29 Lonoke County polling places, the only local runoffs were for Lonoke Mayor (four precincts) and Lonoke Township constable (two precincts.)


Voters at all other polling places could weigh in only on statewide Democratic runoffs for attorney general, lieutenant governor and treasurer.


ORDER DISCRETIONARY


The county election commission has discretion to count ballot boxes in whatever order they choose, according to Tim Humphries, lawyer for Secretary of State Charlie Daniels. So the Lonoke Election Commission could have counted the four Lonoke boxes early in the evening and nearly all the 65 people lingering in the courthouse halls might have known who the new mayor was and headed to the house by maybe 9 p.m.


So why were the Lonoke boxes not the first or among the first counted? “That’s not our way of doing things,” said county election commission chairperson Jean Mc-Canliss. “We count the boxes as they come in.” She said that a couple of Lonoke polling places ran short of ballots and had to use ballots with different code numbers, which then had to be separated.”
She said polling places had paperwork to finish after the polls.


LARGE TURNOUT


The overall vote total in the Lonoke precincts was quite high for a primary runoff, with nearly as many people voting in the runoff as in the May 23 primary. In that primary, 1,053 voters filled in ballots for Lonoke mayor, while 990 voted in Tuesday’s runoff. McGee said Parks has called to congratulate him and offer any assistance after McGee takes office in January. “I don’t have any changes in mind for sure,” said McGee of city employees. “I’m happy with the people that we have.”