Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

TOP STORY >>Early voting heads for a record

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

More than 17,000 Pulaski County voters had cast early ballots electronically by mid-day Tuesday, and officials in Lonoke and White counties say the early turnout was encouraging.By early Tuesday afternoon, 17,570 people had voted in Pulaski County, according to Melinda Allen, voter registration supervisor. “The totals are (already) high, but we’re thinking it will pick up Thursday and Friday,” she said.

In Jacksonville, 1,326 people had voted, according to Allen and in Sherwood, 1,688 had. Early voting at Jacksonville and Cabot city halls ends Friday, but early voting continues till Monday at the courthouses. As of Tuesday morning, 1,100 people had voted early in Cabot and about 600 more at the Lonoke County Courthouse. “It seems to be a good turnout,” said election commissioner Larry Clarke.

He predicted that 3,000 Lonoke County voters will have voted by Election Day. “That will rival the 2004 vote,” Clarke explained. That was a presidential election year, when turnout is always higher and this is only a midterm election.
White County officials report that the electronic voting machines are still working well. By the end of the business day, 3,260 early votes had been cast. Officials say they consider the turnout for early voting a good one.

FAIRWAY DILEMMA

The only reported problem with balloting this time around affects at most the 141 Lonoke County voters on Fairway Drive in the Cabot city limits, according to Clarke, who says they alone will have to vote on paper ballots to be hand counted.
“There’s a small area in Ward four of Cabot that juts out into JP District six,” said Clarke. “Without a microscope, you can’t see that it is the city limits.” He said the road in question is off Hwy. 321.

The election sheriff’s and judges know, said Clarke and both early voting sites have had the paper ballot since day one.
Clarke said the probably was called to his attention about three weeks ago by Republican Alexis Malham, the incumbent in district six.

HONEST MISTAKE

Her Democratic opponent, Chris Skinner, said this week that he believed the omission was an honest mistake that didn’t necessarily benefit either candidate, but that he was concerned that there could be confusion for the Fairway Drive voters.
Skinner said an article in another newspaper misidentified the affected street and that he feared there would be chaos at the polls.

Clarke said that because the appropriate ballot wasn’t programmed into either the touch screen voting machines nor the optical paper ballot scanners, those votes would be hand counted. He said the problem already had been corrected for future elections. Skinner also complained that at least one district six voter had been sent the wrong absentee ballot, but that the problem had been corrected.