ARKANSAS, USA — At the annual meeting of county clerks, Iowa is indeed a four-letter word to the men and women who run elections in Arkansas.
With results of the Iowa caucus still up-in-the-air after technical problems prevented precincts from reporting vote totals, a crowd of about 65 county clerks spent Thursday discussing election issues at the yearly meeting of county executives, put on by the Arkansas Association of Counties.
"What happened in Iowa, I guess was probably, I guess bound to happen eventually," said John Thurston, the Arkansas Secretary of State, during a break in a panel discussion.
The Republican who took office in 2019 has been preaching all week that the Natural State has a different system, and you don't have to worry about any new equipment voters may encounter.
"When I was elected there was 54 counties that had the new equipment," he said. "So there were 21 left that still needed to receive it. We're now, I think we just had 11 receive new equipment."
It's just in time for some clerks in attendance.
"We were having all of our older machines, we were taking a lot of them out of service each election that we went through because of all the mechanical problems," said Doug Curtis, the Saline County Clerk. "You could not get parts for them."
That means voters in even a heavily populated suburban location close to Little Rock will encounter new voter express machines on Super Tuesday, March 3.
The top tech experts who spoke to the clerks are spreading a message to the public that while they look electronic, the machines are not tied into a hack-able online network.
"Election equipment in Arkansas is 100% offline," said Daniel Shults, the director of the State Board of Election Commissioners. "If you're in a machine where you have a ballot marking device, it's just a fancy pencil."
The panelists answered questions about accessibility at polling places, handling voters reluctant to share personal information out loud (as required by state law), and using social media to inform voters when to vote as elections shift all around the calendar.
An overriding theme among them: Trust in your training and communicate everything to help avoid an Iowa-like fiasco.
"So when something happens in one county, everyone will know about it," said Thurston. "We will know about it, and it's a good model for how the state and the federal government can interact as well."