Friday, May 25, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Errors sully election night

Lonoke County election results were slow coming in Tuesday night, and they were incomplete, which is sort of a tradition at the historic courthouse. The county is usually among the last to report in Arkansas, partly because it covers a lot of territory. But human error and lack of preparation have also contributed to delays over the years.

While the secretary of state’s website was quick to post results from around the state for much of Tuesday night, Lonoke County had few results to report until close to midnight. One election official was determined to hold up the results over a nonexistent issue, while the biggest problem — forgetting to count Magness Township except for the early voting results — went undetected for some 12 hours.

It wasn’t till Wednesday morning that election officials discovered they forgot to tabulate results from Magness Township, one of the more populous precincts in the county. Although at least one person at the courthouse Tuesday night kept insisting Magness hadn’t been counted, the seriousness of the oversight wasn’t acknowledged until long after the polls closed.

You’d think with new technology, results would become available almost instantly. Thanks to new software installed at the secretary of state’s office, that notion isn’t farfetched anymore. Secretary of State Mark Martin said he would showcase this week’s primaries with his improved software program, and, sure enough, results started showing up not long after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m.

Much of the state had reported final results, including several important judicial races, around 10 p.m. Pulaski County, the state’s most populous county, had complete results about that time. But Lonoke County was still behind, along with the Delta counties, which are notoriously slow to report because that’s how the local political machines like it.

That kind of behavior has bred cynicism for years. Lonoke County can do better. Friday’s recount did not change the outcome of Tuesday’s primaries, but it’s another reminder that Lonoke County has a long way to go. Election officials need better training and should coordinate with the secretary of state for faster and more accurate counting of ballots. The voters deserve no less.