Nov 1, 2022 - News

Glitch in Arkansas' Lee County forces paper ballots

A DS450 Ballot scanner and tabulator made by Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

A DS450 ballot scanner and tabulator made by Election Systems & Software. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

As many as 300 voters in Lee County may have received the wrong ballot last week.

What's happening: Some early voters there reported receiving ballots that weren't correctly tied to their precinct, which may have erroneously included or omitted city council or state Senate races, election commission chair Lindsey Palmer told Axios.

Driving the news: Baseless claims that voting machines were manipulated during the 2020 general election were a key narrative of election deniers, many of whom still incorrectly claim that Joe Biden was illegitimately elected president.

Why it matters: All of Arkansas' 75 counties use the same company's system — Election Systems & Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Nebraska — for electronic voting.

Details: Lee County election officials heard about the problem early last week, but they weren't able to confirm it because the ballots were already printed and scanned.

  • On Thursday, a voter pointed out the issue to a poll worker while the ballot was still in the voting machine, which allowed the commission to investigate.
  • "After talking to ES&S, we were able to determine there was a coding issue in the equipment," Palmer said.
  • The county shifted to using paper ballots until the issue is fixed.

About 300 ballots cast between Monday and Thursday last week will be counted because there's no way to cull out the ones with errors, and state law doesn't permit the commission to throw out the entire batch of ballots, Palmer said.

What they're saying: A spokesperson for ES&S, called it an isolated incident.

  • "Some of the precinct assignments in the poll book were erroneously entered, and this error was not caught in proofing prior to early voting," she said. "This human error resulted in some voters being given the wrong ballot."

When asked if it was a proofing error by the county or ES&S, the spokesperson said, "We are working with the county to identify specifically where the error occurred."

The secretary of state's office declined to comment on the issue, but to an earlier inquiry said, "We work with county officials on a daily basis regarding preparations and proper implementation of election procedures. We are also working with federal partners in the area of cybersecurity.

  • "We are confident that Arkansas will have a safe and secure election."

Context: On the first day of early voting, some ballots in Crawford County didn't include party affiliations, an issue that impacted about 500 voters.

Be smart: Check the races that are supposed to be on your ballot before you vote. If you see an issue while voting, ask a poll worker for help before printing out the ballot.

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