Residents of the city of Lonoke who voted early in the General Election were greeted by something they didn’t expect — a paper ballot.
The reason for the paper ballot, according to Lonoke County Election Commission chairman Tim Blair, was that the Lonoke Township Constable’s race between democrat George Bailey and republican Adam Ingle, was left off the electronic ballot.
Blair said the commission sent off the ballots to software company, Election Systems & Software, based out of Omaha, Neb. “When they sent us our software back, what we discovered on the first day of voting [Oct. 22] that the people inside the city limits of Lonoke were not allowed to vote on the constable’s race for the Lonoke Township,” Blair said Friday afternoon. “Everything else was correct but that.”
Blair said the commission contacted ES&S about the problem but the company could not get them corrected software in time for the early voting.
“The only way we could ensure the right to vote on that race is to go to paper ballots,” Blair said.
Blair said the commission could not do a paper ballot on only the constable race.
“We had to do it for all the races for everyone who lived in Lonoke,” he said.
Blair said the electronic ballot is fixed for voting on election day Tuesday.
“So, on election day, everyone will be able to vote by machine,” he said.
When voting early, voters were asked to fill out an envelope with their name, address, telephone number and date of birth. That envelope was signed by the voter and witnesses by an election official at the early voting site in Lonoke and Cabot. The ballot, which was printed on regular legal size paper, was inserted into a another envelope and sealed then put into the first envelope with the voter’s information and it was sealed and placed into the old metal ballot boxes.
Blair said this is similar to the old paper ballots which had stubs on the end with numbers on them. The envelope containing the ballot will be removed from the outer envelope and separated, Blair said.
“We will make sure we have the number of ballots that have the people’s names on them to match the other ballots,” Blair said. “That’s the fail safe.
“We’ll split the envelopes up. We’ll make sure the numbers are matched. We’ll take the name ones and put them in a metal box for safe keeping. Then, we’ll open the other ones up. When we open the second envelope up, I won’t be able to associate with the first envelope.”
Blair said he didn’t know how the paper ballot process would be unfair to the voters.
“It’s a little more inconvenient for the voters and it is tremendously more inconvenient for us to count them,” Blair said. “Instead of punching two buttons, we’ve got to open two envelopes.”
The ballots cannot be counted by the old counting machine. They must be counted by hand, Blair said.
He said the commission will start counting the ballots during the day Tuesday. “We can’t tally them until after 7:30 p.m.,” Blair said. “We will have counted them prior to that.”
Early voting polls will be open to 6 p.m Friday; Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.