by Max Brantley
The mess that Garland County Election Commission made has come to full flower. A voting rights activist reports long lines and parking problems at the two — count 'em, two — polling places that the Commission decided to open for runoff voting. It closed 40 other polls to save money despite the fact that every voter in the county, where some 12,000 voted in the first primary, has three statewide races to consider.
There's one poll in Hot Springs, at the election commission, and one in Hot Springs Village (beyond the community's access gates). If it's a close election and Bill Halter loses, somebody is going to howl, given Blanche Lincoln's poor showing in Garland in the first primary. She got only about 40 percent of the vote.
Those in line by 7:30 still may be able to vote. One question, however, may be what constitutes a line. Confident that Commission Chairman Charles Tapp and Co. will have a good answer?
Doesn't help that it's hot. Doesn't help that cops needed because of traffic difficulties have been diverted by a manhunt for a prisoner who escaped en route to a Hot Springs court appearance today.
UPDATE: I've been told now that Tapp made the poll decisions unilaterally, without a vote from the two other members of the Election Commission. I was also told he was informed in time Friday to call back the dogs on a special day of early voting Saturday meant as a makeup for the reduction in polls. People turned up Saturday and found the polls closed because a state statute didn't allow them to be open that day. Huge turnout at the single polling place in Hot Springs Monday and today, a Democratic Party official says.