Benton County in a Bind Over Ballots

Posted on: 5:38 pm, November 7, 2012, by , updated on: 07:15pm, November 7, 2012


From long lines to paper jams and simply running out of ballots, election commission workers are still counting votes in Benton County.

But the process of counting the paper ballots by hand is a slow one.

Chairman of the Election Commission John Brown said more people than expected asked not to vote electronically.

“More than 10% asked for paper ballots,” he said. “We had problems.”

Polling sites were open and voters were voting well after the polls were supposed to close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Many precincts in Benton County ran out of paper ballots. Brown drove to Fort Smith to buy special paper stock to print an extra 6,000 ballots.

The demand for additional paper ballots even caused the printer to overheat.

“Supposed to be used for no more than 500, but I think we put something like 3,000 and it was hard on that printer,” Brown said. “We are going to have to get it serviced.”

County judge Bob Clinard said there were about 30 fewer precincts this year than the last presidential election.

“The election commission is going to have to decide did they reduce the precincts too much, maybe they should go back up,” he said.

Clinard believes the commission will find a solution to prevent this from happening again, but that means more money.

“The more precincts you have, the more ballots, the more voting machines you have, the more money it costs to carry on an election,” Clinard said.

The Benton County Election Commission plans to meet after the counting is over to review the problem and come up with solutions.

“I’m sorry for any delay caused for the voters in Benton County,” Brown said. “We hope to correct that and not have it happen again.”

According to county officials, hundreds of Benton County voters filled the wrong ballots at a Bentonville precinct.

Poll workers noticed the mistake around 11 a.m. Tuesday. Several key races remain in limbo as votes continue to be counting including whether to allow alcohol sales in Benton County. So far 66 percent of the vote is for the measure with 34 percent against.