Minority counties stuck with old voting methods

(May 3, 2004) - (Little Rock-AP) -- With a tight presidential race anticipated in Arkansas this November, some fear outdated voting equipment used by 13 of the state's 75 counties could complicate voting - and the counting process. A delay in federal money promised to replace punch card and lever voting machines prompted the state to apply for a federal waiver, allowing it to wait until 2006 to comply with the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Counties using the outdated machines will include some with the state's heaviest concentration of minorities. Jefferson County, which is 49.6 percent black, will use lever machines and Arkansas County, which is 46.3 percent black, will use punch-card machines. State Senator Hank Wilkins, a Pine Bluff Democrat and president of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus, says the state should replace the machines as soon as the federal funding arrives. But Secretary of State Charlie Daniels and others said the state will not have enough time to replace the voting machines between the May 18 primary and the November 2nd general election.