TOP STORY > >White County to count votes again Tuesday
Leader staff writer
The White County Election Commission has already counted ballots from last week’s election twice because of problems with the voting equipment and procedural errors, but next Tuesday, they will count them again and this time the count will be by hand.
Since 2006, when the touch-screen voting machines were first used in Arkansas, state law has said that when candidates ask for a recount, that count must be taken from the roll of paper on the left-hand side of the computer screen called the real time audit log (RTAL), which is also called the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT.)
“It’s the official ballot in the case of a recount,” said Natasha Naragon, spokesman for Secretary of State Charlie Daniel.
The recount will be held in the election commission office on the second floor of the old sheriff’s department in Searcy.
“It’s going to be a long day,” said Tanya Burleson, White County clerk.
Four candidates have asked for recounts: Cathy Foster, who lost her race for the District 1 seat on the quorum court to incumbent Horace Taylor, 146 to 145; Mark Derrick, who lost his race for circuit court judge in White and Prairie counties to Tom Hughes by 528 votes, 4,115 to 3,587; Greg Niblock, who was third of four candidates in his race for Searcy District Court and hopes a recount will put him in position for a runoff; and Larry Fisher, who lost his seat on the quorum court by 14 votes, 81 to 67. The race Fisher was in with Bobby Burns was missing from the electronic ballot, and paper ballots had to be brought in.
The recount should settle the question of who won in three of the four races, but in the case of the district court race, it will only decide who goes into the runoff against Mark Pate during the November general election.
In that race, Pate was ahead in the last count with 2,875 votes, while Phyllis Worley received 1,341.
Niblock was third with 1,297 votes, only 44 fewer than Worley, while Robert Hudgins was fourth with 833 votes.
The first count, which was plagued with a number of problems, was not completed until 1 a.m. last Wednesday.
The machine that scanned the absentee ballots didn’t work and those votes had to be hand counted.
Poll workers had difficultly closing down the voting machines because they weren’t set for daylight-saving time and that delayed the counting.
Plus, the paper ballots for Union Township had to be counted by hand.
Later that day, a candidate noticed a great many voters had not voted in all the races on their ballots and that prompted the election commission to seek the advice of experts in the secretary of state’s office.
The problem, they learned, was with the counting of the early votes.
According to the vendor’s tabulation instructions, early votes are to be counted using the early vote compact memory flash cards rather than the early vote personal electronic ballot (PEB).
The commission took its first early voting tally from the PEB.
Last Wednesday, the voting was counted again, with the count for the early voting taken from the compact memory flash cards.
The commission pointed out that the recount changed the numbers, but it didn’t change the outcome of any race.
By state law, candidates who ask for a recount must pay 25 cents for each vote counted but no more than $2,500.
If the recount changes the result of an election, they are reimbursed.