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Vote count inaccurate, suit alleges

by John Worthen | January 8, 2011 at 5:19 a.m.

— A former candidate for Dumas mayor has filed a lawsuit against the Desha County Election Commission alleging that voting-machine errors and other problems contributed to his defeat in the Nov. 23 runoff election.

James Jackson lost the mayoral runoff against James Berry by 26 votes. He received 667 votes; Berry received 693.

The suit, filed Dec. 21 in the Desha County circuit clerk’s office, says an accurate count of the number of voters who participated in the election was not taken and that voters’ signatures were rewritten by county election commission workers.

“A single handwriting appears on all voter signature lines and thereby making it impossible to determine how many individual voters actually signed each sheet and cast ballots,” the suit states.

The suit also cites “several voter irregularities in Randolph Ward I precinct and Randolph Ward 3” in Dumas.

“Further, 175 names appear on the voter sign-in list but the voting machines used at Randolph Ward I precinct tallied 242 total voters, a difference of 67 unsigned for voters counted in said precinct,” the suit states.

The suit also alleges that voting machines malfunctioned in Precinct 13 at the First Methodist Church.

Machines were “not in proper operational order so that when a voter cast a ballot for candidate Jackson, the name of his opponent ... appeared and the ballot was cast for” his opponent.

Additionally, an absentee ballot submitted by a person who no longer resides in Desha County was counted as valid, the suit says.

“Such person owned no residence or maintained even a mailing address in the county,” according to the suit. “The address appearing on his voter registration list is a vacant lot.”

Jackson referred all questions to Pine Bluff attorney Gene McKissic, who was out of town this week and wasn’t reached for comment.

Desha County Election Commission Chairman Bill Conway referred questions to 10th District Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Deen, who is representing the commission.

In his motion to dismiss, which was made public Tuesday, Deen said “no facts have been stated that would be sufficient to overturn the election result, and the complaint should therefore be dismissed. Alternatively, there are no genuinely disputed material facts and summary judgment should be entered in favor of the defendants as a matter of law.”

Addressing the issue of rewritten voter signatures, Arkansas Annotated Code 7-5-305(a)(9) directs poll workers to “record the voter’s name or request the voter to print his or her name on the list-of-voters form.”

“There simply is no requirement that voters personally sign the form,” Deen said.

A discrepancy in the voter sign-in list and the actual number of voters who cast ballots on voting machines in Ward I is “erroneous and is apparently a computational error,” Deen said in his response.

“An examination of the forms reveals that it contains the names of all 237 voters who presented themselves to vote in the election.”

Deen acknowledged that 11 residents reported problems with voting machines in Precinct 13 at the First Methodist Church. But Jackson does not explain in his suit “how a rational voter intending to vote for a given candidate would nevertheless choose to confirm his or her vote for the opposite,” Deen said.

As for the absentee ballot cast by a resident who no longer resides in Dumas, Deen said, Jackson’s suit does not “allege whether this voter or any of the other allegedly unqualified voters cast their absentee ballots for him or for his opponent ... it cannot be ascertained from the complaint whether or not the votes of the allegedly unqualified voters would have affected the election result.”

A 10th Judicial District Circuit judge is expected to make a ruling in the case in the coming weeks, Deen said.

Arkansas, Pages 11 on 01/08/2011

Print Headline: Vote count inaccurate, suit alleges


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