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Paper ballot problem further delays Benton County results

House 95 victory could give control to GOP by Misty Gittings | November 7, 2012 at 9:17 a.m. | Updated November 7, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.

A paper ballot counter malfunctioned at the Benton County Election Commission about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, leaving several candidates wondering when they will know the outcome of their races.

One of the races could give Republicans control of the state House.

Election Commissioner John Brown Jr. said he had “no idea” how many ballots were left to be counted. He said workers from machine manufacturer ES&S were leaving south Arkansas on Wednesday morning to work on the faulty counter.

“Something happened to the tracking mechanism inside,” Brown said.

He said the machine had been checked before the election and passed all the tests.

Results available at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday included all the electronic votes cast but none of the paper ballots. The county had 62 percent voter turnout, not counting the paper ballots, for a total of 71,029 votes cast.

The GOP can take control of the state House if it wins a remaining seat in Benton County, where some votes remain uncounted. There, Republican Sue Scott, with 6,234 votes, or 61.56 percent, was leading independent Mark Moore, who had 3,893 votes, or 38.44 percent, with zero of 13 precincts reporting.

With results counted through early Wednesday, Republicans held a 50-48-1 edge over Democrats and the Green Party in the state House. It takes 51 votes to pass a bill out of the House, and the Benton County seat would give the GOP a majority.

The state Republican Party seemed confident Wednesday morning that Scott’s lead would hold.

“We’re going to win Sue,” said Katherine Vasilos, spokesman for the Republican Party of Arkansas.

Vasilos said she expected the party would also win a contest in northeast Arkansas between Republican John Hutchison and Democrat L.J. Bryant. Hutchison led that race late Tuesday night by 45 votes.

The division in the state House if both Scott and Hutchison win will be 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green Party representative. Republicans also have a majority in the state Senate.

“It feels good for all of Arkansas,” said Doyle Webb, chairman of the state Republican Party. “Arkansas has yearned for a strong two-party system where the competition of ideas will be fruitful for the state.”

Also in Benton County, voters supporting the sale of alcohol in the county were thumping the opposition with 46,282 voting in favor of a wet county and 23,890 against.

The new numbers didn’t significantly change previously released totals for the Bentonville City Council races. Burton Head widened a lead over Octavio Sanchez in the Ward 4, Position 1 race. Head had 4,746 votes to Sanchez’s 4,535.

Bill Burckart leads in the Ward 3, Position 2 race with 5,188 votes to James Smith’s 4,058. Political newcomer Leah Williams is defeating incumbent Ed Austin with 5,120 votes to Austin’s 3,910 in the Ward 3, Position 1 race.

Incumbent Chris Sooter remains far ahead of challenger Joey Williams with 6,291 votes to Williams’ 2,872 in the Ward 1, Position 1 race.

In the Ward 1, Position 1 race, incumbent Mary Baggett leads Stephanie Orman with 5,095 votes to Orman’s 4,463.

Both Rogers City Council races appeared headed for a runoff. In the Ward 3, Position 2 race, Keith Jackson led 39 percent of the vote, or 5,063. Andrew Hatfield had 35 percent (4,515), and Mauricio Herrera had 25 percent (3,203).

Bob Goodwin leads the Ward 4, Position 1 seat with 34 percent of the vote (4,524), ahead of Carlos Chicas with 25 percent (3,337), Rachel Cox at 23 percent (3,063) and Carrie Perrien Smith at 16 percent (2,081).

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