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Sharp voting machines have problems
GuardOnline.com  By Larry Stroud, Guard Associate Editor  November 8, 2006

ASH FLAT — Delay was winning the Sharp County election most of the evening Tuesday.

No, not Gunner Delay, the GOP candidate for state attorney general.

The “delay” that was winning was an actual delay, defined by Webster’s II New Collegiate Dictionary as “to cause to be detained (detain is defined as ‘to keep from proceeding’).”

Vote counting got under way in the courthouse in Ash Flat about 8 p.m.

By 9:15, it was evident something was wrong.

What it was, was a software glitch.

Who won and who lost races was almost anticlimactic.

The program glitch was allowing votes from precincts which had been counted earlier to show up on the tally sheet multiple times, as the votes from each succeeding precinct were counted.

Local election officials had expected vote-counting from the first county-wide use of electronic voting machines to go fairly smoothly and quickly. Neither happened.

“Tonight, we were operating for the first time without any hands-on use,” County Clerk Tommy Estes said about 12:15 this morning, about five minutes before the final unofficial figures were released. “We had to refine the programs.”

At least one voting machine — one from Cave Township — also had a paper jam, contributing to the delay.

“There was a paper jam and the totals cannot be downloaded until the jam is cleared,” Estes said.

A deputy clerk worked about 40 minutes to clear the jammed machine.

“Alisa Black disassembled the machine and unjammed it; did a little problem solving,” Estes said.

Overall, “We’re satisfied,” considering it was the first election using the 55 voting machines, he said. “Next time we conduct an election, we’ll have a separate PC that will throw the totals on screen. We’ll have a big screen in the courtroom.”

Estes said he hopes to add to the number of voting machines. In some precincts, including in Cave City, voters sometimes had to wait 40 minutes or possibly longer, due to a shortage of machines.

“We only have now what the federal funds purchased for us,” Estes said. “Voting machines run $3,200 to $3,400 apiece. We may turn to the political parties to contribute for more voting machines.”

Two factors helped create the long wait at Cave City — a machine that broke during early voting was originally meant to go to that precinct, leaving only four, one of which developed the paper jam about mid-day and could not be used thereafter.

More than 30 chairs were placed in a horseshoe-shaped line for voters-to-be waiting in Cave City and, every few minutes, everyone in the line got up and moved two or three places down the line toward the voting machines.

“Is this part of Governor (Mike) Huckabee’s physical fitness program?” one man asked after getting up and sitting down about five times. The comment drew chuckles from the crowd, who mostly waited patiently.

That was between 3 and 4 p.m.

By 4, some would-be voters were leaving without signing in to vote, with some — including one coach — saying they had to leave to go to an “away” ball game.

Larry Brown, a Democrat from Cave City, won the county judge’s race with 3,420 to 2,126 for independent Wayne Long of rural Highland.

Randy McComas of Hardy was elected to a second term as coroner with 3,539 votes to 1,720 for Doug Wortham of Highland.

Voters approved of the county selling the former Sharp Nursing Home property at Sidney with 4,506 voting for and 784 against. The issue had to be placed on the ballot because the nursing home was referred to as a “hospital” in a previous election during which voters approved a millage for expansion of the facility.

State law requires voter approval for the sale of a hospital. The facility and the 7.73 acres of land on which it sits has been appraised at $202,000. According to bidding guidelines, bids must be sealed and an acceptable bid has to be 75 percent or more of the appraised value, according to County Judge Joe Stidman.

The nursing home’s board, which had been leasing the property and facility from the county, relinquished it on May 1 after the nursing home went out of business.

In other unofficial results, Ash Flat Mayor Brien Nix Hall was apparently defeated by Danny Traw. Hall received 180 votes to Traw’s 182. The totals include votes cast in the Fulton County portion of the town.

Ash Flat Recorder-treasurer Charlotte Goodwin notified the Batesville Daily Guard this morning that Hall was calling a noon press conference in his office. Goodwin declined to elaborate on whether Hall was considering on asking for a recount.

Evening Shade Mayor Lonnie Haley withstood a challenge from Henry “Hank” Rivers by being re-elected with 84 votes to Rivers’ 66.

In Cave City, Mayor Carl W. Johnson was re-elected with 270 votes to 140 for Norman Kraiger and Alderman Paul Wayne Johnson was re-elected with 274 votes to 127 for Eddie D. Johnson.

A run-off election will be held Nov. 28 to determine Hardy’s next mayor. Nina Thornton led the voting with 154, followed by Greg Bess with 115 and Chad Wiles with 45. Those totals include 13 for Thornton, 1 for Bess and 2 for Wiles that were cast in the Fulton County portion of the city. Thornton’s total made up 47.3 percent of the vote.

Also in Hardy, Jack V. Huffmaster polled 52.4 percent to win the Ward 1, Position 2 alderman’s seat without a run-off. Huffmaster got 153 votes, while Connie Bradley received 74 and Melanie Dietsche 65.

Nathan Circle won the Hardy Ward 2, Position 1 seat with 149 votes to 134 for James Herbst.

Cherokee Village voters turned out a husband and wife team who have served for years as mayor and recorder-treasurer. Mayor Ray Maynard got 628 votes to Lloyd Hefley’s 875 and Susan Maynard received 517 votes to challenger Phyllis Endrihs’ 970.

For Cherokee Village council positions, Verna Mae Newman won the Ward 3, Position 2 seat and Peter Martin retained his Ward 4, Position 2 seat.

Newman won with 1,005 votes. Her opponent, June Chelsvig, got 636. Martin outpolled Jeremy Stevens 932 to 663.

Cities to be getting new mayors or re-elected mayors who had no opponents include Sidney — Billy G. Carter; Highland — Jerome Norwood; and Williford — Jimmy D. Russell.

A proposed Highland city ordinance to allow aldermen to run for four-year rather than two-year terms was defeated 202-139.

And that other Delay — he lost in Sharp County as well as statewide.

Sharp County’s totals for statewide races and ballot issues pretty much followed statewide trends. Those Sharp County totals include:

U.S. Congress District 1 — Congressman Marion Berry (D) 3,641; Mickey “Stubby” Stumbaugh (R), 1,876;

Governor — Mike Beebe (D), 3,158; Asa Hutchinson (R), 2,018; Rod Bryan (I) 321; Jim Lendall (Green), 84;

Lieutenant Governor — Bill Halter (D), 3,046; Jim Holt (R), 2,445;

Attorney General — Dustin McDaniel (D), 3,487; Gunner Delay (R), 1,755; Rebekah Kennedy (G), 251;

Secretary of State — Charlie Daniels (D), 3,573; Jim Lagrone (R), 1,746; Ralph “Marty” Scully (G), 183;

State Treasurer — Martha Shoffner (D), 3,298; Chris Morris (R), 1,901; Brock Carpenter (G), 253;

State Auditor — Jim Wood (D), 4,325; Michael Joseph Bolzenius (G), 751;

State Land Commissioner — Mark Wilcox (D), 4,035; R. David Lewis (G), 964;

Constitutional Amendment No. 1 (bingo) — For, 3,979; against, 1,456;

Referred Question No. 1 (higher education bonds) — for, 3,268; against, 2,022.

County judge candidate Long, watching and waiting along with others throughout the evening in the courthouse, said one thing is clear from this election: “...Our system is broken,” Long said. “We had a lot of people who wanted to vote (and didn’t get to). Piney Fork (voters) had to wait two hours, I was told. That’s at Evening Shade.

“We can’t have that. Working people have to be able to walk in and vote in 10 minutes,” he said.


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