The Faulkner County Election Commission met on Thursday and elected Conway attorney Frank Shaw as its chairman. Shaw said that he would be leading the county’s election process to improved training for poll workers and election staff, but he said there would not be any dramatic changes to the process.
"May is coming up quickly ... and I’m not looking for any jump-start changes," Shaw, who served on the commission from 1996 to 2000, said.
The commission voted to establish a county election Web site likely to include significant dates, frequently asked questions and possibly a list of all registered voters and their assigned voting precincts, which the commissioners felt would be a step toward solving some of the more common election-night problems before they happen.
Rob Hammons and Phillip Liggett were approved as poll worker instructors and Liggett, who hasn’t served the capacity before but holds a degree in the field of education and was trained as a poll worker last year, said that he felt he could do "a good job" and indicated to the commission that he had identified some areas to improve over the course of last year’s poll worker training.
Returning after serving the previous year as commissioner, Marvin Lessmann told the commission that he wanted to take whatever measures were appropriate to avoid the problems of the last primary election.
Lessmann was referring to the District 45 Democratic primary, in which Dr. Terry Fiddler seemed to have beaten Linda Tyler by a narrow margin until it was discovered that when voters in the East Cadron B precinct cast their electronic votes for Cadron Township Constable, their votes were actually being recorded for the District 45 state House race — an error that then-election commissioner Bruce Haggard initially said should have been impossible had the machines been programmed and operating properly.
It was determined by an Election Systems and Software technical expert flown in to conduct an election audit that the error was human, not electronic, and, in Haggard’s final analysis, "could have been caught by more careful proofreading both in the testing processes that are recommended by ES&S and by more thorough election night checks."
Shaw, in response, again stated his position that more thorough training — and not a process overhaul — would be the appropriate remedy to whatever problems the county election process may have.
The commission also asked County Clerk Melinda Reynolds to clarify the responsibilities of a new employee hired in response to a Quorum Court request for a full-time election coordinator. Reynolds explained that the new hire, whose salary is about $28,000 per year, will divide duties and effectively be classified as "deputy clerk/election clerk." The new employee will spend much of her first few years educating herself in election matters.
The commission voted to take what steps may be necessary for this deputy clerk/election clerk to be recognized by the Arkansas Election Commission as the county’s point of contact, but Shaw recommended that for the present time Reynolds continue in her present capacity as de-facto election coordinator.
In other business, the filing period for those seeking office was set from noon on March 1 to noon on March 8, and drawing for ballot position will be held on March 11 at 4 p.m., after which the election commission will hold a public meetings to finalize some details and accept questions and input from the public.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at email@example.com. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)