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Slow going: County results trickle in : Unofficial numbers show Clinton, Huckabee in lead  (AR)

Gary Lookadoo and Tom Treweek   Benton County Daily Record   06 February 2008

BENTON COUNTY - Results were slow to arrive from Benton County's presidential-primary voting Tuesday, in part because many voters had to rely on paper ballots.

But by 11 p. m., with most of the paper ballots counted, some unofficial returns showed Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee in the lead in their respective primaries.

The available returns were as follows: In the Democratic primary, Clinton 2, 720; and Barack Obama 1, 019. In the Republican primary, Huckabee 3, 731; John McCain 1, 441; Mitt Romney 1, 239; and Ron Paul 426.

Partial Green Party results were available, too, with the Green Party receiving 13 votes - 4 for candidate Kent Misplay, 3 for other candidates and 6 uncommitted.

Election Commission chairman John Brown Jr. reportedly blamed a lack of manpower for the pace of results.

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, at the Election Commission office, Brown didn't mention the multiple recounts that plagued election results in the coun- ty in 2006. But he was quick to say that only one report of results should be anticipated this time. "It's going to be awhile. We're just running them. We're gong to run the whole batch at one time and report it all at one time. It's longer than we anticipated (getting a final count )," he said. The count would be completed if in recent years electronic-voting machines hadn't replaced the county's old punch-card voting system, Brown said. "I wish we had it all done. If we had punch cards, it would have been," he said. The commission would get the results and release them as soon as possible, he said.

"We're just going to run the whole shooting match, just run the whole thing at one time. Everything's here, and we're running them through the machines right now. And as soon as they get run, we'll release them," Brown said.

Despite problems, all voting machines the commission had planned to use in the election were, in fact, used, Brown said. "There were some problems with machines, but they were all opened and we were using them," he said.

Some voters used paper ballots, which was part of the reason for the delay in getting results, but everyone who wanted to vote was able to do so, Brown said.

Another factor that slowed things down was the heavier than anticipated turnout of voters, though he wouldn't speculate about the turnout figure, Brown said.

Still earlier Tuesday, many problems were reported in many precincts.

Brown said the county's voting machines experienced difficulty starting, but the process continued unhindered. "That's why we have paper ballots out there," he said.

Four or five people worked to get the machines working, either in person or by phone, he said.

At about 12: 30 p. m., the electronic voting machines stood idly along one wall at one polling place, Oakley Chapel, as voters filled out paper ballots there. The machines had failed to boot up that morning, poll worker Pete Lorenzen said.

Elsewhere, at New Hope Church of the Nazarene, neither electronic voting machine had booted that morning. Precinct 40 's machine, however, had been fixed by 2 p. m., while precinct 41 's was still black.

The machines were thoroughly checked out before being taken to the polling places, county Election Commission member Lynn Chinn said. "All I know is, those machines were thoroughly inspected and tested when they went out of here, and then people are telling us they're not working and they're using paper ballots," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Heavy turnout among Democrats accounted for some of the problems, Chinn said.

"We've had 'em run out of register tape for counting the votes. They ran out of that. They ran out of the Democratic ballots. It's been like that all day long," Chinn said. "I don't think there's a problem. I think it's just a tremendous turnout of voters."

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