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Ballot typo forces reprint for special election, costs $12,800

by Emily Walkenhorst | February 16, 2014 at 4:22 a.m.

One number put in the wrong place resulted in a decision Saturday to reprint more than 53,600 ballots before the March 11 Pulaski County special millage election.

The Pulaski County Election Commission - which now holds meetings during each poll-worker training session - voted unanimously Saturday to reprint the ballots after realizing the misprinted forms could not be counted by the voting machines at the precincts.

Election officials were not concerned Saturday that the error would delay the election. But it will cost the commission about $12,800 - at 23.9 cents per card, Election Commission Director Bryan Poe said. The extra cost will come from the organization’s $400,000 printing budget, reducing the amount of any unused portion that reverts to the county’s general fund at the end of each year.

The mistake occurred after a commission worker incorrectly typed a code that produces black boxes along the left side of the ballots. One box was omitted at the top of the “code channel,” which usually has two boxes where the rest of the channel has only one.

“It was one number put in the wrong place,” Commissioner Phil Wyrick said. “It was a human error.”

Although the county uses two different types of machines - the M-100 and M-650 - to tabulate the votes, the final ballot draft was tested on only the M-650.

The county’s more than100 polling sites all are equipped with the M-100 machines, allowing votes to be counted on site. The M-650 is located at the commission’s office in downtown Little Rock and is used to tabulate the combined results.

When the new ballots were tested Thursday on the M-100, the machine failed to read the forms. Poe said the commission is “not happy” about the error.

“This is something I didn’t even know could happen,” he said.

The commissioners approved the ballot draft Jan. 9, but the outer edges of coding on the ballots were not included in that review.

On Saturday, commission Chairman Leonard A. Boyle Sr. said the poll watchers would be angry if they could not actually monitor the votes.

“Poll watchers are going to attack this commission,” Boyle said.

Poe, who was not at the meeting, said the machines would be turned into “glorified voting boxes” if the precincts were unable to count the ballots on site.

Wyrick agreed and said Boyle’s argument trumped his initial hesitancy to approve the extra spending.

Wyrick asked Poe to create a plan to prevent such an error in the future.

Poe said the code channel in addition to language and other design issues on all future ballots will be proofread, and the ballots will be tested on both machine models before the final print order.

In the March 11 special election, Pulaski Technical College is seeking a 1.9-mill increase to fund facility operations and capital projects. If approved, the millage increase would add $38 to the annual property-tax bill of a home valued at $100,000. Revenue expected to reach about $11.4 million would be collected beginning in 2015.

Arkansas, Pages 13 on 02/16/2014

Print Headline: Ballot typo forces reprint for special election, costs $12,800

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