Vote centers’ printers arrive

List of 45 sites approved for primary in Benton County

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County election officials will move ahead with plans to shift from traditional local polling places to vote centers where any county voter can cast a ballot.

The county has received 125 printers needed to pair with electronic poll books that will replace paper poll books, said Kim Dennison, the county's election coordinator. The electronic poll books will provide poll workers with a live connection to voter registration information. That will speed up the voting process, said County Clerk Tena O'Brien.

Primary election

The 2016 party preferential primary and nonpartisan election is set for March 1. The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is Feb. 1. Early voting for the primary begins Feb. 16 and ends Feb. 29.

Source: Benton County

"Voters will be asked for their name, address and date of birth, just like they have in the past," O'Brien said. "But it's live, the poll books are, so that narrows -- I won't say eliminates -- the chance of someone being able to vote twice."

The information is entered into the electronic poll book linked to the county's voter registration information.

That connection will show poll workers the precinct to which the voter is assigned and the ballot style they will use. If someone already has voted, that will also be shown immediately.

The information provided by a voter on the day of an election has to match what is on file with the county, Dennison said. She urges voters to check their registration information in advance of the election.

Having the new equipment in place, along with adding another 53 electronic voting machines, will allow Benton County to open vote centers on the day of an election. Any Benton County voter can cast a ballot at any of the 45 vote centers the Election Commission has approved rather than be limited to a single polling place. The commission finalized the list of vote centers for the March 1 primary Thursday. The county will post the information on its website, Dennison said.

Voters who prefer to cast paper ballots can do so on the day of an election at the main office of the county clerk in Bentonville.

"There shouldn't be any transition for an individual voter," said Russ Anzalone, commission chairman.

Commissioner Mike Sevak thinks the changes will be well-received and be beneficial to the election process.

"We've made it more convenient for the voter and less stressful," Sevak said. "Probably 80 percent of the people are going to be OK with it. Once that other 20 percent see how it works, they're going to like it also. Change is good."

Benton County has to accommodate changes in technology as it continues to grow, Anzalone said.

"We're in an electronic age," he said. "That's where everything is headed. We're doing things slowly, but we have to keep up with the times."

Mary Lou Slinkard, justice of the peace for Benton County's District 11, previously served in the state House of Representatives, where she helped write the state law that provides for the use of vote centers. Slinkard, who has also served as a county clerk, said Benton County will benefit from the change.

"I know how hard it was when we changed over from the old punch cards to the electronic voting machines," she said. "I think we've come a long way since then. I think it's going to be really good, like early voting. When that came on people liked it and it really took off."

Metro on 01/04/2016

Upcoming Events