Voting problems, fraud, scandals plague polling places across America: Arkansas
Arkansas – November 14, 2018
Benton County, Arkansas's Election Commission was peppered with questions about how a computer thumb drive was overlooked on election night and what would be done to make sure that doesn't happen again.
The thumb drive was found Wednesday at the bottom of a bag brought in from a vote center location Tuesday night. In all, 834 votes were missed.
Kim Dennison, election coordinator, said Thursday no election outcomes were affected by the missing votes, which were from the Centro Cristiano de Rogers Church on First Street. Dennison took an election tape, a printout made Tuesday night of all votes cast at the location, and added the numbers to determine if any races changed.
According to Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Christie Craig, a Democrat running for the Arkansas House District 96 seat held by Rep. Grant Hodges, was looking at precinct-by-precinct numbers on the state election website and noticed the numbers from that area of Rogers seemed low, Dennison said. Craig contacted the Election Commission. Craig studied the area in the lead-up to the election because she lives about 2 miles from Centro Cristiano, which is in her precinct. On Election Day, the turnout seemed low to her, and that's when she started to look at the state website.
The three-person commission met Friday afternoon to certify 221 provisional ballots, but became involved in a sometimes spirited back-and-forth with community members who wanted answers.
Commission Chairman Russell Anzalone stressed in the 10-day period used to certify the election results the missing votes would have been discovered even though Craig discovered the problem first.
"We would have known at some point that we were missing something somewhere," he said. He again stressed results issued Tuesday night were unofficial.
Anzalone told the crowd of about 20 people, a mix of residents and media, the 834 votes "had been added accordingly."
Shawn Wright, a candidate for Ward 1, Position 1 on the Rogers City Council, questioned how the thumb drive could have been missed. 34 thumb drives were used at the various voting center sites across the county.
"It should not take that long to count to 34," Wright told the commission.
"Once they realized the mistake on Wednesday, they should've made it public," Shawn Wright said. "Instead a candidate called in and that's how it was made public."
Wright and other Benton County candidates are demanding recounts, but according to the commission, the 48-hour window to file had already passed before the misplaced thumb drive was announced, OzarksFirst wrote.
Wright finished second in his council race with 21% of the vote. Mandy McDonald Brashear won with 47% of the vote.
The votes from the church location showed some Democratic candidates for state representative and one state Senate seat bested their rivals, but not enough to change the outcome of any of those races.
Lucci Chambless of Rogers felt the commission was acting nonchalant about the missing thumb drive after the situation was repeatedly described as a mistake.
"People feel their votes don't matter," she told the commission.
Election results will be certified on Friday, November 16th.