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No explanation for ballot machine malfunction

by George Jared for the South Missourian

May 27, 2004

No one has accepted responsibility for a malfunction in a ballot scanner that forced Fulton County election officials to count ballots by hand for the primary election May 18.

But despite the problem, the final vote tallies were certified by the secretary of state?s office May 20.

Fulton County Clerk Gene Maguffee blamed the problem on a microchip in the county?s optical voting scanner. He said the chip was programmed by Electronic Service Systems in Omaha, Neb.

'Chip malfunction is not what happened,? said ESS spokesman Meghan McCormick. McCormick blamed the problem on the printer of the ballots, Riverside Graphics in Batesville. She said they sent only two of the required 16 sample ballots needed for programming. ?We coded for the ballots we had,? she said.

Riverside Graphics printer Michael Eaton insisted his company sent ESS a full set of ballots. ?We printed the ballots for Independence County where there are three times as many people and we didn?t have any problems. We?ve had this problem with ESS before,? said Eaton.

ESS didn?t program the chip used in Independence County, said Eaton.

He said Riverside Graphics checked its postage records, and the weight of the package sent to ESS was consistent with a package containing 16 ballots.

Maguffee said he?s contacted the Election Board in Little Rock and informed them he isn?t going to pay ESS for their services. ?The chip didn?t work and I don?t feel like we should pay them when we had people counting ballots all night,? he said.

The state election board and the county jointly pay for services like the ones provided by ESS, Maguffee said.

Voters in Fulton County will return to the poles June 8 to determine who their sheriff and county judge will be.

In the Fulton County sheriff?s race, long-time deputy and former Fulton County Sheriff Carroll Traw will face Justice of the Peace Walter Dillinger. Traw garnered the most votes in the primary with 1,198. Dillinger was a close second with 1,179 votes. The winner of the runoff will not face an opponent in November.

In the county judge?s race Charles Willett of Salem will square off against Jerry Smith of Mammoth Spring. Willett, received 1,095 votes to narrowly defeat Smith, with 1,022 votes.

The winner of the Willett/Smith runoff will face Republican candidate Gary Phillips in the November general election.

The primary?s most lopsided contest was for county clerk. Deputy clerk Vickie Bishop received 2,322 votes to soundly defeat opponent Evalene ?Ebb? Glisson with 872 votes. ?I?m glad this is over. I?m so tired from campaigning,? a belated Bishop said after the final tally came in on election night.

Fulton County Assessor Jerry Humphries and county coroner Steven Barker defeated challengers Greg Jackson and Clell Cox, respectively, to retain their positions.

The closest race in the primary was for constable in the Afton Township. Incumbent Lenard Pickle received 60 votes to defeat challenger Shannon Wood by a single vote.

The lone justice of the peace race in the primary went to incumbent Jimmy Marler. Marler (285 votes) beat challenger Gene Garner (101 votes).

In the Cleveland Township, Larry Davis (59 votes) defeated Mike Hess (51 votes).

Officials at the Fulton County clerks office said several precincts voted together in this election. Fulton precinct voted with Mount Calm; Viola precinct voted with Vidette-Bayou and Big Creek; and Southfork voted with Wilson.

Bishop said each precinct still retains its own voter book at the courthouse.

Unofficial numbers reported last week for the Sharp County district judge race between Mark R. Johnson and R.T. Starken were incomplete. The final tally was Johnson 3,212, Starken 842. All other totals published remained the same.

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