First Day of Early Voting and Already Running Out of Ballots

MAY 8, 2006 -- POSTED AT 9:45 P.M. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- "We had some people we had to turn away, because we didn't have a ballot for them to vote on," says Nancy Nelms, the Craighead County Clerk.

It's the start of voting for the May primaries and there is already a problem. The problem is a ballot shortage and according to the Craighead County Election Commission it's a problem that's got to be solved.

The State of Arkansas hired a printing company out of Omaha, Nebraska called E.S. & S. to handle the elections for all 75 counties across the state.

“This company is basically now a monopoly here in Arkansas. They are providing the D.R.E. the touch screen voting machines, plus these ballots, and they just don't have enough man power,” says Benton Smith, the Chairman of the Election Commission in Craighead County.

Lack of supply seems to be the reasoning behind this problem. Precinct 4 completely ran out of ballots Monday, and 5 other precincts are all following close behind. But it's not just a problem in Craighead County . It seems to be statewide. In St. Francis County , they never received any ballots and therefore, were unable to even begin early voting as scheduled. So, what's the plan?

"We're going to have paper ballots printed here locally that will not be scanned, but we can hand count those on election night and hopefully we'll receive the remainder of our ballots very soon," says Smith.

What about the company, E.S. & S. that hasn't followed through on their end of the deal? "I suspect the Attorney General will probably get involved, but at this point we just want to conduct an election," says Smith.

According to the Craighead County Election Commission, they should know something by Tuesday morning, as far as how many more ballots they should receive and of course, we'll have the outcome as it is announced.