Lost Ballot Box Leads to Recount of Votes

May 29, 2006 -- Posted at 6:02 p.m. CDT

Newport, AR -- An overlooked ballot box is responsible for an election recount Tuesday in Jackson County.

Now, the second candidate in the runoff for Justice of the Peace in District 3 has changed, sparking a recount of those votes.

"I don't know exactly how it got lost. It was reported that all the boxes were in, and evidently they were all in the courthouse, but they weren't counted that night," said Wayne Beard with the Jackson County Election Commission.

This has negatively affected at least one of the candidates. Tony Johnson was told he would be a part of the runoff and now, he isn't.

"I thought I was in the runoff as of Wednesday morning. They contacted me Friday and said they had another box to count," said Johnson.

"After counting it, 2nd place wound up tied, so therefore, they had to do it by lots. Tony lost, and now he wants a recount," said Beard.

According to Arkansas law, when two candidates tie in a race the race will be decided by casting lots. Casting lots is a time-honored way of deciding matters fairly.

"It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it. What we did, we put two pieces of paper in. One said 'yes' and one said 'no' and had them draw," said Beard.

Incumbent candidate Tommy Gardner won the lot, and will be in the runoff... if the recount comes back the same.

Tuesday afternoon, election officials worked to recount the votes.

"I was concerned. You know, there was kind of a mix up with the ballots and the boxes and everything. I just thought I'd have them recounted to make sure everything was ok," said Gardner.

Election officials say they believe this is the first time they've had to cast lots in Jackson County.

The recount came back early Tuesday afternoon, but the results came out the same.

The lost ballot box and recount has stalled the beginning of early voting that was scheduled to start on Tuesday. Jackson County Election Commission expects the runoff to begin on Friday.