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LONOKE -- The Democratic Party of Arkansas filed two new complaints Wednesday against the Lonoke County Election Commission that allege misconduct at the polls during the May 22 judicial and party primary elections and the use of inmates to transport voting machines before the machines were turned off or the votes were counted.

The new allegations amend an original complaint filed on election day after a polling site in England remained closed 2½ hours after voting machines malfunctioned. The Democratic Party made the complaint with the state Election Commission after the state Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit by Democrats who wanted the Lonoke County polls to stay open until 10 on election night to make up for the earlier closure in England and the unavailability of Democratic paper ballots at the site.

In one of the new complaints, voter Robert Camp said he was denied his right to vote the morning of the election when a poll worker at Concord United Methodist Church in rural Lonoke County could not get Camp's driver's license to run through a scanner, according to the complaint. Rather than verifying Camp's voter registration manually, the poll worker asked him to leave, according to the document.

The incident happened to many other voters at the same location, the complaint stated.

"Not true," said Stubby Stumbaugh, Lonoke County Election Commission chairman, after a commission meeting in Lonoke Wednesday evening. "They [the poll workers] are trained to type it in if the scanner is not working."

Stumbaugh admitted to the second complaint that inmates transported voting machines to a central location after the polls closed.

"It's been done every election for many years," he said.

Rep. Michael John Gray, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said that the many problems experienced by Lonoke County during the election highlight a bigger problem with Secretary of State Mark Martin's office.

"County election commissioners and poll workers are being hung out to dry," Gray said. "County election commissioners and poll workers give up a tremendous amount of time to serve their counties, and the state has a responsibility to give these individuals the tools they need to do their job. If the poll workers who turned these voters away would have been properly assisted by the state, these issues wouldn't have happened. We hope the state Board of Election Commissioners work quickly to address these matters so that all voters can cast their ballots in November."

When asked to respond, Chris Powell, a spokesman for Martin's office said "We don't have a comment."

Problems plagued the Lonoke County election process from the time the polls opened at 7:30 a.m. on election day. Stumbaugh said equipment failures occurred throughout the county because the all-new county Election Commission members did not insert some flash drives correctly, and some machines were damaged from being stored in a building without climate control.

The county submitted election totals to the secretary of state's office more than 24 hours after the polls closed, making them the last in the state to report. Three election machines were not able to be shut down, delaying the final count, Stumbaugh said.

At the Lonoke County Election Commission meeting Wednesday, Stumbaugh said he is researching the idea of creating voting centers throughout the county instead of temporary polling locations.

The centers would be permanent locations where any voter from any part of the county could cast a ballot. Stumbaugh said the idea would mean the need for fewer voting machines, reducing expenses for the county and streamlining the election process.

A handful of counties around the state have implemented voting centers, including Boone County. Crystal Graddy, Boone county clerk, said previously that a stand-alone center is easier to navigate than the typical aging county courthouse and is a one-stop shop for voters.

Stumbaugh said he is working with the secretary of state's office for suggestions on a smoother process in the November general election.

As for the complaints, Daniel Shults, legal counsel for the state Board of Election Commissioners, said the process by law cannot take more than six months.

"It is confidential until it is either settled or set for a public hearing," Shults said.

Metro on 05/31/2018

Print Headline: Democrats add to poll grievance

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