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Lagrone claims early voting plagued with problems; Daniels staffers disagree 
The Morning News  By John Lyon  November 2, 2006

LITTLE ROCK - Secretary of State Charlie Daniels, a Democrat running for re-election, disputed Thursday his Republican opponent's charges that early voting for Tuesday's general election has been plagued with problems.

GOP candidate Jim Lagrone contended he has received calls and e-mails daily from people who have encountered problems while voting. Machine malfunctions, programming errors on electronic ballots and printing errors on paper ballots are among a "plethora of problems" occurring across the state, he said.

Lagrone said he believes election commissioners and county clerks are making "heroic efforts" to deal with problems, "but the fact is, our election system in Arkansas is broken - from top to bottom - and needs to be fixed."

Criticizing Daniels' handling of installation of a new statewide electronic voting system has been the prime thrust of Lagrone's campaign.

Robert McLarty, spokesman for Daniels' re-election campaign, dismissed Lagrone's claims as campaign politics.

"Mr. Lagrone's been misstating the facts for several months now about the election process. This is just an effort at the end of the campaign to continue the negative attacks," McLarty said.

Deputy Secretary of State Janet Harris said she read Lagrone's statement and found nothing specific in it that the secretary of state's office could investigate.

Harris said two counties that planned to use electronic touchscreen machines for early voting have been unable to do so. Garland County encountered programming problems and Crittenden County did not receive its machines in time for early voting.

The company that was hired by the secretary of state to provide electronic voting machines, Electronic Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., is working with both counties and hopes to have their problems resolved in time for the machines to be used in the general election Tuesday, Harris said.

"We've heard very good reports from the counties and what we've seen in their local press, indicating that their turnout's fairly heavy and the voters seem to be doing well with the new technology," she said.

Officials in several counties contacted Thursday said early voting was going smoothly, though some said they encountered problems initially and were able to fix them.

Washington County Clerk Karen Combs Pritchard said that for the first two days of early voting in that county, the machines' paper printouts listed the wrong district number for a state representative candidate, although the number appeared correctly on the screen.

The mistake was discovered by the candidate himself when he came in to vote, she said.


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