Friday, June 06, 2008

TOP STORY > >Election should go better next time

Leader staff writer

The White County Election Commission, those unpaid volunteers responsible for making sure elections are conducted in accordance with state law, fell short of making sure the primary came off without a hitch and had to spend more than 24 hours hand counting the ballots for the May primary, only to report Wednesday night that the recount changed nothing.

All the winners are still winners and there still will be a runoff for Searcy District Court during the November general election.

There also will be a runoff among Democratic candidates for House District 58, which covers part of Jackson County and part of White County on June 10.

“The secretary of state told us it would be a long and tedious process, but we didn’t know it would be that long,” said Cindy Barker, a member of the election commission, after the counting was completed. “We didn’t know it would take that long.

There was nothing wrong, no problems, we were just taking our time and doing it right.”

But Barker said the problems are behindthem. Not only have they learned from the procedural errors that skewed the first count, but Leslie Bellamy, the certified election coordinator who usually works with them, has come back early from maternity leave to make sure the runoff election as well as the general election run smoothly.

In Bellamy’s absence, the commission hired other election coordinators who were responsible for some of the problems with the election.

“Leslie started programming sometime last week,” Barker said. “As a matter of fact, she programmed the machine for early election.”

In the Democratic primary for JP District 1, Horace Taylor won over Cathy Foster 146 to 145. In the Republican primary for JP District 2, Bobby Burns won over Larry Fisher 81 to 67.

Mark Derrick, who lost his race for circuit court to Tom Hughes, withdrew his request for a recount.

In Searcy District Court, there will be a November runoff election between Mark Pate and Phyllis Worley. In that race, Pate received 2,911 votes to Worley’s 1,356. Greg Niblock, another candidate for that office, requested the recount when he nearly tied with Worley for the runoff, but the recount showed him still in third place with 1,317 votes while Robert Hudgins came in last with 1,078.

In the Democratic primary for House District 58, both White and Jackson counties will hold runoff elections to determine the winner.

The runoff is between Jody Dickinson who received a two-county total of 1,095 votes while Jody Bryant came in second with 897; Jamie Darling came in third with 857 and Jerry Calew finished last with 495.

Candidates asked for the recount after problems with the election including procedural errors in the counting and bad programming of the voting machines forced the commission to count the ballots a second time. The hand count, which is required by the state when candidates ask for a recount, was the third time the ballots were counted.