Favorite

Overcoming the election absurdity 




Because of election problems in the first-primary elections Tuesday, May 23, Secretary of State Charlie Daniels says he’ll hire a consultant to study the state’s $15 million contract with the company that supplied most of the state’s new election systems “to see what we should do so this won’t happen again,” and he’ll appoint a blue-ribbon committee to consider the consultant’s report and make recommendations to Daniels, the state’s top election official. The possibilities include some sort of financial penalties against the company, Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., Daniels said Friday.

While most of the state seemed to have no major problems in voting and tabulating votes with the new systems required by federal law, a few counties did, and one of them was Pulaski, the state’s largest. A harried Susan Inman, Pulaski County director of elections, said it was “absurd that we are in this situation because of this poor programming product that this company has provided … ”

“Pulaski County is upset and Charlie Daniels is upset,” Daniels said in an interview. Besides wanting to serve the public well, Daniels is surely concerned about the political ramifications of the election problems. He’s up for re-election, he has a Republican opponent in the November general election, and Pulaski County has a lot of voters. He had little to say about the political aspect, though, except that he expected his opponent, Jim Lagrone of Bryant, “to take advantage of every situation.”

And yet another situation may be developing. Election-reform activists are disrespectful of the consultant Daniels plans to hire to study the state contract with ES&S. The consultant is Glenn Newkirk, president of InfoSentry, a company based in Raleigh, N.C. Lisa Burks of Conway, an activist, said in an e-mail that “Newkirk is NOT a computer scientist. He has a political science background.” She passed along an article by David L. Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, that was sharply critical of Newkirk, who has done consulting work around the country.

Despite the complaints of people like Dill, Newkirk is “respected in the community,” Daniels said. Newkirk has worked for Daniels before. He evaluated the two bids the state received last year to provide new election systems, to see that they matched the state’s specifications in its invitation for bids.

Dill is a “conspiracy theorist,” Daniels said, and he and others like him are “totally opposed to all touch-screen machines.” Newkirk has defended touch-screen machines. Opponents of the machines say they’re too easily rigged and don’t have the transparency needed to uncover the rigging. But, Daniels said, the federal law requires that touch-screen machines be made available in every county, and he must comply. Forty-seven Arkansas counties chose to use touch-screen machines exclusively, he said.

There have been some complaints about Daniels’ awarding the state contract to ES&S, since a committee he appointed to evaluate bids gave a higher score to Diebold Election Systems of Allen, Texas. The committee stopped short of recommending the contract be awarded to Diebold, however.

Daniels points out that there were only two bidders, and ES&S’s bid was roughly $2 million lower than Diebold’s. Also, Daniels said, ES&S had worked with many Arkansas counties previously, and had a good track record in Arkansas.

Both Diebold and ES&S — especially Diebold — have been accused of being too close to the Republican Party. Daniels, a Democrat, said that wasn’t a factor in his decision. Both companies have had election problems in other states, too.

Three counties in south Arkansas — Columbia, Ouachita and Union — were exempted from the state contract with ES&S because the voting systems they had in place, purchased from Harp Enterprises of Lexington, Ky., met the requirements of the new federal law. They reported no significant problems in the first primary. Ouachita County Clerk Britt Williford said, “We were through counting the votes from all 22 precincts by about 8:45 p.m.” The polls didn’t close until 7:30 p.m.

The company that manufactures the voting machines sold by Harp didn’t bid on the statewide contract, however.

ES&S issued a statement the day after the primary, when the problems in Pulaski County had become apparent. It said, in part: “We regret the current delay [in counting votes], and are committed to working diligently with Pulaski County to ensure a situation like this never happens again. … Building on that commitment, we will be restructuring our project management team … ”

That commitment will be put to the test pretty quickly. The runoff is June 13. Whether the problems can be worked out by then is problematical. But most primary contests were decided in the first primary, so the vote in June should be very light. That might help.

Looking further down the road, even Inman, who’s said harsh things about ES&S, expects that all be well by general election time in November. “I think this will be resolved when more time has passed and we can do our own programming and verification in a timely manner,” she said. ES&S did all the programming for the first primary, because the state was making a transition to new touch-screen equipment.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation