Ballot glitch frustrates Senate hopeful


LITTLE ROCK — A state Senate candidate whose name was accidentally shortened on the electronic ballot in White County says she is frustrated and disappointed by elections officials’ response to the error.

The glitch is one of several is0lated problems that cropped up during the first week of early voting, though the secretary of state’s office says the process is going smoothly overall. Early voting began Monday, and by Friday more than 150,000 people had cast early ballots.

In an interview Friday, Rep. Tiffany Rogers, D-Stuttgart, said she believes election officials in White County could have done more to correct a problem that was discovered by a voter last Monday, the first day of early voting.

The voter contacted Rogers after noticing that the last few letters in Rogers’ last name were omitted from White County’s electronic ballot.

Rogers is in a race with Republican Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, for the District 28 Senate seat. Dismang’s entire name appeared on the ballot.

White County Election Commission Chairman Winston Collier told the Arkansas News Bureau on Wednesday that soon after the problem was discovered, county election officials placed a paper notice on every voting machine to inform voters of Rogers’ full name.

Collier said the name would would appear in its entirety on the ballot on Election Day, but it would not be changed on the electronic ballot during early voting.

“Why didn’t they just halt early voting until they got it corrected?” Rogers said.”Even if they would have had to go to paper ballot or something to that effect, it would have helped make the process a lot cleaner.”

The voter who found the problem submitted an affidavit to the county election commission on Monday. The commission has called a meeting for Monday of this week to consider the affidavit, but Rogers said she believed the commission should not have waited a week to meet.

“We run on our name, name recognition,” she said. “Typically your last name it’s what’s more prominent on all your printed materials. It causes me concern.”

Asked if she has considered challenging the election results because of the mistake, Rogers said, “Right now I’m concentrated on finishing out my campaign, working hard to get the vote out. We’ll see what happens in the end.”

She said the issue affects not just her Senate race but voters’ ability “to have confidence in the electoral process and know that it’s effective and that rules are followed, laws are followed.”

Candace Martin, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said the party will send a lawyer to the commission’s meeting on Monday. She said the party shares Rogers’ concerns.

“I think people that show up to vote early deserve the same right to a fair and lawful election as those who show up on Election Day,” Martin said.

Elsewhere, storms on Thursday night resulted in computer problems in several counties in western and northwestern Arkansas on Friday morning. Some poll workers found they could not connect to the Internet to verify people’s voter registration, which slowed the process as they used other means to conduct the verifications until the problem was fixed mid-morning.

No voters were turned away, Martin spokesman Alex Reed said Friday.

In Jonesboro, three city council races were inadvertently omitted from the electronic ballot for some voters. Reed said the affected voters were being allowed to vote in those races on paper ballots.

The problem was not discovered until Wednesday, Jonesboro TV station KAIT reported.

Craighead County Election Commission Chairman Brandy Brown did not return calls Friday seeking comment.

An issue not related to ballots or computers cropped up in Crittenden County, where county treasurer candidate William Ledbetter complained to election officials that the line of people waiting to cast early ballots extended past the office door of his opponent, incumbent treasurer Larry Miller, and that Miller was talking to the voters.

Crittenden County Election Commission Chairman Patricia Henderson said the commission met Thursday to consider the complaint but decided the issue fell under the jurisdiction of the county clerk.

A worker in the office of County Clerk Ruth Trent said Friday that Trent was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

By mid-afternoon Friday, 157,000 Arkansans had cast early ballots statewide. Early voting continues through Nov. 5.

The secretary of state’s office predicts that 65 percent of Arkansas’ 1.6 million registered voters — a little over 1 million people — will vote in the general election on Nov. 6.