The Crawford County Election Commission held a special meeting on Oct. 21 after it was discovered that 34 ballots were cast in the wrong races and the Democratic Party challenger in the State House District 80 race was not included.
A programming error caused voters to receive ballots for different precincts, the election commission concluded.
Election Commission Chairman Bill Coleman has contacted the state board of election’s attorneys as well as the secretary of state’s attorney. The recommendations he received were to leave the ballots in question as they are right now.
"What we’ve done is secure the ballots from the early vote," Coleman said. "We have those sealed in a secure location, and if we get to a point where there is a really close race within the margin of error that these ballots would create, then we would go in and locate those ballots that were issued to the folks in Chester that they weren’t supposed to get."
Another problem that the commission faced was that State House District 80 Democratic candidate Lou Reed Sharp of Prairie Grove had been left off the ballot. Sharp was contacted by a voter that was concerned about not seeing her name on their ballot. The seat is held by Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren. District 80 includes areas from Van Buren to Tontitown in Washington County.
All of the ballots have been corrected and will be ready for election day on Nov. 3, and the commission is still in talks about the specifics of how they will handle the situation in the upcoming days.
During early voting on Oct. 21, a voter from Cove City found that she had received the wrong ballot. After it was brought to their attention, the poll workers managed to manually give her the correct ballot, but soon realized that this problem may have been ongoing.
The election commission found that 28 voters from Chester, out of city limits, received a Cedarville ballot and six voters from Cove City received Chester ballots. After the problem was discovered the election commission fixed the issue so that any voters after the discovery were able to vote correctly. Within the city limits of Chester, 87 voters were given Cove City ballots that did not have the Cedarville annexation issue on it.
This mistake impacted these races: U.S. Congress District 3; U.S. Congress District 4; Arkansas House District 80; Crawford County JP District 1; and the Cedarville annexation issue.
Coleman also said the only identification on a ballot is a precinct code number. They would have to go through and find each with the code that shows that incorrect ballot and would do a recount without those ballots. This will get rid of the votes that weren’t supposed to be cast in the first place.
The commission has not decided what to do with the six ballots from Cove City voters yet. If they can contact the six voters then they will be able to be issued a special ballot with just the specific issues fixed, to give them a chance to cast their vote in the right precinct.
Coleman added that they don’t know if the voters had actually voted for the wrong issue, or since they didn’t recognize the issue they may have skipped over it.