Friday, June 02, 2006

TOP STORY>> Paper ballots used for runoff

Leader staff writers

IN SHORT: Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties will put aside electronic voting for
June 13 contest.

Among the counties not depending on electronic touch-screen voting machines for the primary runoff election already underway are Pulaski, Lonoke and White, none of which reported heavy voting in the May 23 primary election.

In the first week of early voting for the primary runoff elections which began Tuesday, 265 people had cast ballots at the courthouse as of Thursday afternoon.

Beginning Monday, voters may cast paper ballots in the runoff at any one of the eight satellite locations as well, according to Susan Inman, director of the county election commission. Among those voting locations are the Jacksonville Community Center and the Bill Harmon Recreation Center in Sherwood.

Of the 259,494 registered voters in Pulaski County, 179,134 of them considered active voters, about 38,140 voted in the primary, according to County Clerk Pat O’Brien.

Statewide races on the Democratic runoff ballot pits state Rep. Tim Wooldridge against Bill Halter for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and city attorney Paul Suskie and state Rep. Dustin McDaniel for the Dem-ocratic nomination for attorney general. Martha Schoffner and Mac Campbell are in a runoff for Dem-ocratic nominee for state treasurer.

In addition to the three state-wide Democratic primary runoffs, voters in parts of Sherwood, McAlmont and Jacksonville can settle the runoff for Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Dist. 10 between the incumbent Rev. Robert E. Green, Sr., and former justice John Mass.

Although all early voting sites will be active, the IvoTronic touch-screens may not be in use again (in Pulaski County) until early voting for the Nov. 7 general election, according to O’Brien.

In the Pulaski County primaries, 29,021 Democrats voted as well as 8,877 Republicans and 242 nonpartisan voters. The turnout for a primary in a non-presidential voting year was pretty average, according to O’Brien.

In the 2004 primary, 38,584 residents voted but two years later, that was closer to 53,000, O’Brien said.

“There will be a lot more voting in the general election,” he said.

About 75 early ballots had been cast in Lonoke County’s Democratic primary runoff by late afternoon Friday, according to county clerk Prudie Percefull.

While only about 7,000 of the county’s 31,798 registered voters participated in the May primary, Percefull said that’s about the state average.

In the primary, 5,186 residents voted on paper ballots and another 1,800 people voted using the touch-screen IvoTronic.
Although the first week’s early voting runoff numbers seemed low, there is only one local runoff of significance.

Alderman Wayne McGee and former Alderman Jim Parks were the top vote getters in a race that turned Lonoke Mayor Thomas Pri-vett out of office and all but ignored Roy Henderson.

But because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote, the runoff is necessary.

McGee, a local businessman, got 42 percent of the 1,053 votes cast for mayor and Parks got 34 percent.

About 22 percent of the county’s registered voters participated in the primary. “We’ve had better ones, but we ran about the state average,” said Percefull.

White County officials say even though the 8,332 voters in the primary make up less than one-fifth of the 43,163 registered voters in the county, the turnout was a good one for a primary.

Early voting also is going about as expected with 124 voters so far for runoff elections for the state offices of attorney general and treasurer as well as two city offices in Bald Knob.

The only problem so far, said Leslie Miller in the voter registration office, is the one shared by neighboring counties: ES&S didn’t get the software ready for the voting machines in time, so they have been forced to use paper ballots.

“We’re hoping it’s ready for the runoff,” Miller said.