The Faulkner County Election Commission on Tuesday certified results from the preferential primary election held one week earlier, but not before the newest commissioner pleaded for more transparency from the commission and the county clerk’s office.
Chris Carnahan of Conway, the commission’s newest member, said he was informed the day after the election that about 500 votes were not initially counted. He later learned that the number was 759. The uncounted votes were discovered after officials dealt with a computer error. The votes were added to candidates’ totals before election results were certified.
The 759 votes did not change the outcome of any primary race.
"It is troubling that I was not informed about this," said Carnahan, who served as executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party from 1999-2001. "I think that all three election commissioners should be notified as soon as possible."
Carnahan, now a deputy prosecuting attorney, also said that any county clerk’s office personnel who are involved with an election need to attend Election Commission meetings in case questions arise.
"I have five [employees] in my office that worked" during the election, said County Clerk Melinda Reynolds, a Democrat. "I can close the office and bring them all here."
The commission certified the vote after considering eight provisional ballots, rejecting five and counting three. Those who submitted the five rejected ballots will be informed and allowed to appeal the decision. Five ballots were rejected because the voters are registered in Pulaski County but live in Faulkner County.
Doug House, attorney for the Faulkner County Republican Party, took issue with the state election laws that leave the county clerk’s office holding two separate sets of vote results, including one for the Election Commission and one for the county clerk.
Commission Chairman Frank Shaw said it is an unfortunate necessity.
"We don’t have an office," Shaw said. "We meet in the county judge’s office. What we receive will be placed in the county clerk’s office."
Shaw, a Democrat, contended that election problems normally do not surface until there is a contested race for county clerk. Reynolds will be opposed by Republican Mark Vaught, a Conway alderman, in the November general election.
Shaw, a Conway attorney, further stated that he is upset with the method by which votes are reported, saying that election results should not be released until the results are certified.
"We’re caught between a rock and a hard place," he said. "Everybody wants the numbers that night, and then they are mad if they aren’t right at that point. But none of those numbers matter until they are certified right now. This is officially the first time these votes are counted, and these are the right numbers."
A representative from the county clerk’s office reported Wednesday that 10,819 total votes were tabulated, although the secretary of state’s office showed that 11,402 ballots were cast. Shaw said the numbers reported by the secretary of state’s office were sent to that office from the county clerk’s office, but the number of total votes still differed.
Following certification, the final number of votes cast in last Tuesday’s primary, including provisional ballots, was 11,581.
"Compared to many other counties, this was not a problem," Shaw said. "But it is a problem to us, and we will get everything fixed."
Carnahan succeeds Jerry Roberts of Conway on the Election Commission. H.G. Foster of Conway, a former prosecuting attorney, is the third commissioner.