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ROGERS -- Benton County's Election Commission was peppered with questions about how a computer thumb drive was overlooked on election night and what would be done to make sure that doesn't happen again.

The thumb drive was found Wednesday at the bottom of a bag brought in from a vote center location Tuesday night. In all, 834 votes were missed.

Comparing midterms

Voter turnout in Benton County in the last two midterm elections.

2014

• Total registered voters: 127,008.

• Turnout: 63,331

2018:

• Total registered voters: 158,933.

• Turnout: 76,862

Source: Benton County Clerk’s Office

Kim Dennison, election coordinator, said Thursday no election outcomes were affected by the missing votes, which were from the Centro Cristiano de Rogers church on First Street. Dennison took an election tape, a printout made Tuesday night of all votes cast at the location, and added the numbers to determine if any races changed.

Christie Craig, a Democrat running for the Arkansas House District 96 seat held by Rep. Grant Hodges, was looking at precinct-by-precinct numbers on the state election website and noticed the numbers from that area of Rogers seemed low, Dennison said. Craig contacted the Election Commission. Craig studied the area in the lead-up to the election because she lives about 2 miles from Centro Cristiano, which is in her precinct. On Election Day, the turnout seemed low to her, and that's when she started to look at the state website.

The three-person commission met Friday afternoon to certify 221 provisional ballots, but became involved in a sometimes spirited back-and-forth with community members who wanted answers.

Commission Chairman Russell Anzalone stressed in the 10-day period used to certify the election results the missing votes would have been discovered even though Craig discovered the problem first.

"We would have known at some point that we were missing something somewhere," he said. He again stressed results issued Tuesday night were unofficial.

Anzalone told the crowd of about 20 people, a mix of residents and media, the 834 votes "had been added accordingly."

Shawn Wright, a candidate for Ward 1, Position 1 on the Rogers City Council, questioned how the thumb drive could have been missed. Thirty-four thumb drives were used at the various voting center sites across the county.

"It should not take that long to count to 34," Wright told the commission.

Wright finished second in his council race with 21 percent of the vote. Mandy McDonald Brashear won with 47 percent of the vote.

The votes from the church location showed some Democratic candidates for state representative and one state Senate seat bested their rivals, but not enough to change the outcome of any of those races.

Lucci Chambless of Rogers felt the commission was acting nonchalant about the missing thumb drive after the situation was repeatedly described as a mistake.

"People feel their votes don't matter," she told the commission.

The commission was asked about what it planned to do to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. The commissioners didn't offer anything concrete but noted procedures and protocols would be reviewed.

"We're going to meet as a commission and determine what to do," Commissioner Harlan Stee said.

Chambless pressed the commission to keep voters informed about what changes would be made.

"When you figure it out, let the public know," she said.

Election results will be certified Friday.

NW News on 11/10/2018

Print Headline: Commission questioned over missing thumb drive

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