|Updated: 6/06/2010 8:10 am
||Published: 6/05/2010 10:42 pm
Two hundred voters were turned away from the polls Saturday in Garland County after the election commission says it made a mistake by telling voters they could vote. Only two precincts will be open in Garland County on Election Day. Lt. Governor and Senate Candidate Bill Halter asked election officials there to open early voting on Saturday. Turns out, Saturday voting would be against the law, according to Election Commission Chair Charles Tapp.
"I work in Little Rock. I leave my home at 6:30 in the morning. With traffic, I wanted to make sure that I could vote so I re-arranged today because I could on my time and came in to vote and walked in. They told me there had been a mistake. We can't vote," said voter Laura Generou.
It was a mistake, that left 200 voters who showed up to the polls, now showing signs of disapproval. Friday, Halter asked the Garland election commission to open polls Saturday for early voters. The commission agreed, but Saturday morning changed its mind.
"I can't because we would be breaking the law. The law is very explicit that we can only be open on the hours the county clerk's office is open and we have to give a 10 day legal notice," said Tapp.
"That same gentleman didn't give the same 15 day notice to all voters in Garland County when they decided to shrink the number of polling sites 36-39 down totwo. If there are going to be mistakes made in this process, it ought to be mistakes that wind up with more people voting, not less," Lt. Governor Bill Halter said.
Tapp showed up Saturday morning to turn voters away, something he says he regrets having to do.
"I just feel terrible. I’ve been with the commission 18 years and I’ve never had a problem like this," Tapp said.
"For those who are voting for the first time, the young voters, this does not encourage them at all. We, I'm speaking of the establishment here, the persons in charge, owe them an apology," said voter Elmer Beard.
Last month, 100 voters in Garland County voted on the Saturday of the primary election. The commission was required to open that day. On June 5th, 200 showed up ready to cast their votes and couldn't.
Tapp says money is a factor for only opening two precincts. It would cost the county $40,000 to open all 39 polls and $10,000 to open two. He says he doesn't expect a huge voter turnout and feels the two sites are centrally located for residents in the county.
Charles Tapp also says he only expects 3,500 voters to show up to the polls by Tuesday since run-off elections aren't as popular. So far 500 people in Garland County have already voted early. Last month, 18,000 people voted in Garland County, which is of 70,000 registered voters