Provisional ballot votes added to Northwest Arkansas election day tally, but no race outcomes changed

Their addition doesn’t change election day outcomes of any races in area

In this file photo stickers for early voters sit in a container Friday during early voting in the primary election at the Benton County clerk's office in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Ben Goff)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Election officials in Washington County added 27 votes to the totals in the May 24 primary election, but no outcomes were changed.

Washington County's Election Commission reviewed 50 provisional ballots not counted on election day and found 27 should be counted. The additional votes will be added to the election day totals when the commission meets at 1 p.m. today to certify the election results.

"No outcomes were changed," Jennifer Price, executive director of the commission, said at Thursday's meeting.

In Benton County, election officials said they reviewed 44 provisional ballots and accepted 17 of them. No outcomes were changed.

The provisional ballots counted in Washington County did include two votes in the contested District 25 state House race between Jody Harris and Chad Puryear. Both candidates received one additional vote.

Harris requested recounts after trailing Puryear by six votes out of 4,412 cast in unofficial election results on primary night, 2,203 to 2,209. District 25 includes parts of three counties, requiring a recount in each. One provisional ballot each in Washington and Franklin counties added a total of two votes to Puryear in recounts of those counties. Thursday's review of Washington County provisional ballots added one vote for Harris.

Crawford County Election Commission Chairman Bill Coleman acknowledged in an interview Wednesday during the recount that some absentee ballots were mishandled. The mistake made no difference in the final count, and a poll watcher for Harris oversaw the counting of those absentee ballots on primary night, he said.

The Washington County Election Commission was also able to count the vote of a Fayetteville woman whose registration information had not been properly handled by the state, which the commissioners said is a recurring problem. Part of Thursday's meeting was a hearing time set aside for voters who wanted to contest their ballots not being counted.

Martha White told the commission she moved to Arkansas from Georgia last year and had gone to the state revenue office in Fayetteville to change her driver's license and vehicle registration. While there, White said, she was asked if she wanted to register to vote and she said yes.

White saved the receipt from her transactions and was able to show the commission that as proof she had registered to vote.

"She clearly registered to vote and the DMV screwed up," Commissioner Max Deitchler said during the hearing. "It's a government office. They do ask you if you want to register to vote, and then they screw up the process."

Deitchler said Thursday was the first time in his 10 years on the Election Commission that a voter was able to show proof they had registered at a state revenue office when there was a question about their registration.

"It's been a problem for as long as I've been here," he said.

Price said she had spoken with a married couple with a similar problem in this election. In that instance, Price said, the couple had both registered to vote at a state revenue office location. The wife was able to vote because her information had been transferred to the county, but the husband could not because his information had not been transferred.

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Provisional ballots

In Arkansas voters can be required to cast provisional ballots for a number of reasons including failure to satisfy general ID requirements, voter information not appearing in poll books, voter marked as having been sent an absentee ballot and voter marked as having already voted.

Before certification of the results of the election, the county board of election commissioners determines whether the provisional ballots are valid. Unless enjoined by a court of competent jurisdiction, a provisional ballot shall be counted if it is cast by a registered voter and is the correct ballot, according to the precinct listed on the voter’s eligibility affirmation, for the precinct of the voter’s residence; and the county board of election commissioners does not determine that the provisional ballot is invalid and should not be counted based on other grounds.

Source: Arkansas Secretary of State