Elections Far From Smooth in Region 8

November 7, 2006 - Posted at 4:25 p.m. CST

IMBODEN, AR -- Residents across Region 8 headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their vote in a number of key races. County officials are hoping the general election will run smoother than the primaries and back in May, Lawrence County experienced problems with an ES&S mix-up... the company that runs elections for the Natural State told the county they could use pens on ballots, causing major delays.

ES&S has struck again, causing more frustrations at the polls.

"It was hectic because we were backed up all the way double line to the door and couldn't get them out," said Imboden poll worker Iva Jean Smith.

Around 7:00 a.m., most of the precincts in Lawrence County began experiencing problems with the electronic voting machines as they were preparing to open up the polls. The cause of the problem... ES&S, the company that runs the state's voting machine, supplied the county with the incorrect device that pulls up voter ballots.

"We cleared, we tested, we did everything," said Lawrence County Clerk Tina Stowers, "Everything worked out great until they sent us the wrong PEB and it didn't work from there."

The most recent ES&S mishap has caused Lawrence County a major headache. However they believe none of the precincts were completely closed done for a couple minutes at a time and all were up and running at full strength by 11:00 a.m.

"I am not happy with ES&S, I am very dissatisfied," remarked Stowers.

According the Stowers, the problem could have been avoided simply by ES&S checking the codes before sending out the devices. To fix the problem, county officials instructed poll workers either on site or on the phone how to reset the machine. With the county implementing all electronic voting, these problems couldn't have come at a worse time.

"If they are having problems people don't want to mess with all that waiting around, they would just assume stick with the paper ballots they are used to," said voter Paula Griffin.

A number of voters were skeptical of the new machines however after casting their vote they were believers.

"I am new at voting it was really quick and easy for me, much easier than paper," said Griffin.

Poll workers in Lawrence County said there were a couple of voters so skeptical of the electronic voting machines that they refused to vote all together.

While Lawrence County had their share of problems the process ran smoothly in Craighead County.

"I think anytime you are finished by 9:00 or 9:30 in the fourth or fifth largest county in the state it's great. I was very proud of everyone who worked," said Benton Smith, Craighead County Election Commissioner.

Officials in Craighead County believe things went off without a hitch because they were more familiar with the ES&S system this time around.

"It's a wonderful system. We just have to educate not only the public, but our officials," said Smith.