Lonoke County votes in Tuesday's judicial and party primary elections remained uncounted late Wednesday, just a day after equipment failure forced a nearly three-hour shutdown of an England polling site.
After the polls closed, a second problem occurred when three machines would not shut down, delaying the count.
"We had three precincts where the machines just did not close down," said Lonoke County Election Commission Chairman Stubby Stumbaugh.
Early on election day, Stumbaugh said, the county encountered problems with voting machines because the all-new election commission did not insert some flash drives correctly and some machines were damaged from being stored in a building without climate control.
The state Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit by Democrats seeking to keep the county's polls open 2½ hours past the normal 7:30 p.m. closing time.
The lawsuit claimed that the polling place -- the England Recreation and Fitness Center on 107 Valley View Drive -- was closed when voters arrived shortly after polls statewide were to open at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Then, when the polling place opened at 10 a.m., the lawsuit claims, there were no paper ballots for the Democratic primaries, but plenty for other elections.
On Wednesday afternoon, the state Democratic Party filed a formal complaint with the state Board of Election Commissioners claiming that Lonoke County election commissioners as well as the secretary of state's office failed to "test, examine, train and to provide ballots leading to widespread equipment failure" and a closed polling site.
Democratic Party attorney Christopher Burks pointed the finger at Secretary of State Mark Martin and said the Lonoke County incident shows widespread failure to educate and equip local officials across the state.
"We basically have an absentee secretary of state who is falling down on the job," Burks said, adding that the state office is there to support local election officials.
"These officials are trying to do the right thing," Burks said. "They're trying to implement elections, but they're not getting the support they need from the secretary of state."
Chris Powell, a spokesman for Martin, said the claim was "ridiculous."
"I don't think their statement has any merit whatsoever," Powell said.
Healther McKim, the director of the state Board of Election Commissioners, said an investigation into the complaint would be complete within the required six-month time frame.
Burks said that Martin, as the head of the state Board of Election Commissioners, should recuse himself from the investigation.
Powell said the secretary of state is always involved in board hearings.
"They're entitled to their opinion, but the matter will be addressed at the appropriate time just as any other matter before the board," Powell said.
McKim said the initial investigation would be conducted by the staff attorney to see whether any election laws were violated within the bounds of the complaint.
From that point, a recommendation is made to the board based on the findings.
"The board can then decide if they want the matter further investigated or they can act on the violation," McKim said.
Daniel Shults, legal counsel for the state Board of Election Commissioners, said penalties if the complaint is validated can range from a reprimand letter to a monetary fine of not less than $25 and not more than $1,000.
"Fines are rare," Shults said. "Most of the time when people mess up, it is not intentional. I don't think they would issue a fine unless the action was intentional or reckless."
Metro on 05/24/2018
Print Headline: Mechanical problems delay Lonoke County vote results