Sherry Bell

Columbia County Clerk Sherry Bell talks about the county's new voting machines during a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

A rare lack of a quorum prevented the Columbia County Quorum Court from conducting business on Tuesday. Justices who were present were content to hear a brief report of County Clerk Sherry Bell about new voting equipment.

County Judge Larry Atkinson will work to schedule another meeting of the Quorum Court by the end of the week that will draw at least eight of the 11 justices required for the conduct of business.

In fact, only six justices were present at the scheduled meeting time of 5 p.m., and when David Graham showed up a few minutes later, he was greeted by applause. In addition to Graham, justices present were Marjie Blair, Penny Cook, Robert Nash, Annette Pate, Billy Wayne Taylor and Oliver Thomas. Absent were James Drake, Steve Lee, Carolyn Terry and Terry Williams.

Also absent was Rob Hammons of the Arkansas Secretary of State Office, who had been scheduled to answer questions about the county’s new voting machines. Columbia County is part of a pilot program that allowed the county to receive the new machines and ballot counters without charge.

Another voting matter was the main agenda item. On the table was an ordinance designating all county voting places as “vote centers.” The designation would allow registered voters to report to any voting place in the county and cast ballots in any election or issue on which they may be eligible to vote.

“This is a convenience to the voter,” said Bell. “We are going to do this only in 2016. We want to make sure it works.”

“We’re going to make it so that anyone can vote in any location. That teacher who lives in Magnolia and teaches down in Taylor – instead of making that teacher come all the way back up to their (voting) location, they can vote in Taylor,” Bell said.

The key to the system lies in electronic tablets that will be available to election officials in all locations. They contain detailed information about a voter’s home address and how that address affects the set-up of a voting machine.

The 2016 election is shaping up to be a relatively light one in terms of the number of contested races. This makes the 2016 cycle an ideal time to introduce the new machines to Columbia County voters, Bell said.

An appropriations ordinance was also on the agenda. It will money between accounts in the county’s general fund. This is a “clean-up” ordinance typically approved by justices at the end of fiscal year, moving money from accounts with money that likely won’t be spent into accounts that need more money.

No committee reports were heard due to the lack of a quorum.

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