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Waiting for results

By Jennifer Turner Staff Writer // jennifert@nwanews.com

BENTONVILLE — Possible errors in reporting stalled the Benton County Election Commission’s attempt to verify election results Wednesday.

“ We have reason to believe that some of the (electronic files ) that were put in are corrupted, ” Election Coordinator Jim McCarthy said. “ We are in the process of finding out if there were errors” in the results of Tuesday’s election.

McCarthy wouldn’t go into detail about what might have caused the possible electronic errors or how extensive they might be. He said the commission is working with programmers from Election Systems and Software to solve the problem.

McCarthy would not estimate how many precincts could be affected.

“ We’re not going to conceal anything, but we are going to be sure that what we tell you is what we know, ” he said late Wednesday afternoon. “ We’re not going to be a part of anything that’s wrong. ”

ES & S is the company that provided the scanners and touchscreen voting machines that Benton County now uses to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

In Highfill, unofficial results released by the Election Commission showed that only 29 people voted in the mayor’s race there.

But Terry Reams, election sheriff at the Highfill Community Building, said 218 people cast votes at that polling place on Tuesday.

“ The tally from the machine hasn’t been done yet, ” Reams said Wednesday afternoon. “ We had some problems with the machine. ”

It was unclear on Wednesday how many other machines had not yet been counted or exactly how the machine had problems.

This general election was the second election in which the Benton County Election Commission has used a new voting system, including new paper ballots and electronic voting machines.

The new process of counting the votes has taken longer than punch-card ballots that were used previously. While people used to watch local election results come in at watch parties at the Clarion Hotel and other places, many people, candidates included, are now long asleep before the unofficial results are reported.

Benton County Clerk Mary Lou Slinkard said more preparation before the election is needed.

“ Of course, this is only the second election to use this stuff, ” she said of the new voting and ballot-counting machines. “ It’s very complex — the preparation time, the organization time — it takes a long time. It would be my recommendation to this county to begin in January to start working toward the election. Now’s the time for us to start. ”

McCarthy said official results could be confirmed by late Thursday afternoon.

“ We have 10 days to certify them, but we can’t take 10 days because there are going to be runoff races in Benton County, ” McCarthy said. “ We know that we have to do this relatively quick because we have to have a (runoff ) ballot prepared. ”

If there is a runoff, it will Nov. 28.

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