Because of a technological glitch, election workers in Carroll County spent Wednesday putting information from 1,843 absentee ballots into voting machines so new ballots could be printed out and then run through a tabulator to be counted.
County Clerk Connie Doss said Carroll County's DS200 tabulator couldn't read absentee ballots from a new printer. But they didn't know that until Election Day.
"This year we had no idea what to expect for absentee ballot requests, so we purchased an on-demand ballot printer," Doss said.
She said the printer was set up by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., which provides voting and tabulating machines to the state of Arkansas.
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"When we received the ballot data, we printed the absentees, sent them out, they were voted and returned, canvassed and the ballots (in their ballot envelope) were placed in a locked box until yesterday," Doss said in an email Wednesday.
"When we were ready to start tabulating, we put the first one through and the DS200 tabulator spit it back out," she said. "We tried several other machines with the same result. Everyone was baffled. We decided here that it had to be the printer."
Doss said they called Election Systems & Software, and they agreed.
"While setting it up, it had not been calibrated properly to the DS200," Doss said. "Our only option at that point was to begin the process of taking the voted ballots and recast them on the ExpressVote machines, placing the original ballot in a lock box and voting the replaced ballot through the DS200 to give us the electronic count for reporting purposes."
Doss said they finished counting the absentee ballots late Wednesday afternoon, but they still have 261 provisional ballots to count.
"We have taken this in stride and are doing what needs to be done to be sure we are timely, accurate, while being as efficient as possible," she said. "We have two election workers per ballot. One reads the ballot to the person who is voting the ballot on the ExpressVote. The ExpressVote worker then reads their selections back to the person with the original ballot. They both have to agree, and both the original and recast ballots are initialed. We have our election commissioners here helping with the process."
"We just spent the last two weeks canvassing those absentee ballots," said Sharon Hoover of Alpena, chairman of the Carroll County Election Commission. "We've handled these ballots it seems like endlessly. It's been a long, tedious process."
A total of 11,677 ballots were processed in Carroll County by the end of the day Wednesday.