LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Sen. Blanche Lincoln, in a tough primary challenge, cast her ballot on Tuesday, but not until after she was cleared by election officials who said she had already received an absentee ballot.
Prior to the senator's arrival at her voting precinct, election officials showed Fox News paperwork indicating Lincoln had already voted by absentee ballot.
"She can pretend to vote but she can't put a ballot in that box," 88th precinct Chief Judge Arlette Miller said. "Our paperwork says she's already voted."
But Lincoln campaign staffer Charlie Gocio cleared up the confusion before Lincoln headed to the poll at St. James United Methodist Church in west Little Rock.
Lincoln, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told reporters she always requests an absentee ballot "just in case."
"It wasn't a snafu, it's a common practice," Lincoln, with her husband and two sons in tow, said after voting.
"My husband and I want to ensure that we vote in all the elections, not just the big ones, but the school board elections and others and so on. The first of the year, you're given an opportunity to ask for an absentee ballot for every upcoming election so sometimes when you have requested a year's worth, and we normally do this, you have to just fill out a form to ensure that you haven't voted twice," she said.
Pulaski County Clerk Pat O'Brien said it is common for people who spend a lot of time out of town to take an absentee ballot but vote a provisional ballot if they are in-town on Election Day.
Provisional ballots are counted after the end of voting by the county Election Commission.
The Arkansas Democratic Senate primary has been one of the bitter races in the nation this year with MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO and other groups funneling cash to Lincoln and her opponent Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
Businessman D.C. Morrison, another contender in the race, is considered a spoiler who could prevent the senator from getting the 50 percent she would need to avoid a runoff.
Lincoln decried attack ads paid with money coming into Arkansas from out of the state.
"They have misrepresented my voting record they've misconstrued who I am and what I've been about, and O think it's important that other candidates need to be shown for who they are."
Halter said Lincoln's position on several issues leaves feeds the notion that she flip-flops on key issues.
"It's not just the positions, but it's the fact that she's wavered so much back and forth," Halter told reporters.
Lincoln, who said a runoff is costly and a use of resources that could be better spent, also defended herself during questioning about the negative tone of the contest.
"I did run a good campaign," she said. "It was not a negative campaign, it was comparative campaign at times and I think that's important."