At the polls in Arkansas, what’s OK? Selfies? Dogs? Helpers?

Troy Gray of Little Rock says his job as chief election judge at Fire Station No. 10 next week is to help voters on Election Day. He cast his ballot Tuesday in early voting downtown.
Troy Gray of Little Rock says his job as chief election judge at Fire Station No. 10 next week is to help voters on Election Day. He cast his ballot Tuesday in early voting downtown.

Voting, believe it or not, is really about love.

So said Troy Gray of Little Rock, who on Tuesday will work as chief election judge at Fire Station No. 10 in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood.

Who’s getting this love? Voters, Gray said, especially the ones who need help.

“My main job is when somebody walks in the door and is in the wrong place, and they’re mad and confused, it’s my job to make them happy. It’s my job to let them know somebody loves them and cares about them and will help them to vote,” Gray said by cellphone Monday from the deer woods.

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Gray is one of several people who explained how to have an election that’s smooth, efficient and nonconfrontational.

But first, the most important matter: Selfies? OK?

Justin Timberlake took a voting selfie in Memphis, put the photo on social media, and all heck broke loose.

There won’t be much heck to be had as long as people don’t add to the hubbub of Election Day, said Bryan Poe, director of elections for the Pulaski County Election Commission.

Signs posted at the county’s 111 polling places tell voters about the “soft policy” on cellphones, Poe said. Voters are asked to not talk on their phones while in polling places, but if they do poll workers won’t intervene unless a voter becomes disruptive.

“Keep it to a minimum,” Poe said. “There’s already enough chaos on Election Day.”

As for selfies, “if it’s not bothering anybody, we let it go, but you can’t take a picture of someone [else] filling out a ballot.”

Jon Davidson, educational services manager for the state Board of Election Commissioners, said that, absent a specific law on cameras in polling places, counties can make their own policies with an eye toward disruption.

There is no prohibition against a voter taking a picture of his own ballot.

As for other voters’ ballots, he said, no one is allowed within 6 feet of a voter. Anyone closer, presumably with a camera, could be considered disruptive and removed from the polling place.

Davidson said a discussion in the Legislature some years ago centered on prohibiting voters from taking photos of their own ballots.

Opponents argued that a voter had a First Amendment right to take a photo of his own ballot, he said.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union sued California to block the state from enforcing a ban on voters sharing photographs of marked ballots, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The California Legislature has passed a law allowing ballot selfies, but the ACLU said the law won’t take effect until next year.


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Back in Arkansas, voters want to know if they can take their dogs to the polls. The answer is: Sure, if they are service animals. Otherwise, please don’t.

Can a voter take his gun to the polls? Plenty of people have guns. As of Monday, 213,525 Arkansans have concealed carry permits issued by the Arkansas State Police.

The law is essentially silent on the point, Poe said, since the Legislature repealed the prohibition against carrying a firearm in a polling place.

“If you wanted to, I suppose you could,” Poe said. “But it’s not a good idea. We settle our disagreements in the voting booth, and not on the streets.”

Many polling places are in churches, he said, and churches aren’t typically dangerous places.

Davidson pointed out that many polling places are in schools, where weapons are prohibited.

Does Davidson know of any conflict anywhere in Arkansas over this issue? He does not, he said.

Also, he doesn’t know of any prosecution for impersonating a voter.

Can a small child be taken into a voting booth? Yes, Davidson said.

What about a helper? Yes, but with a limit.

State law, Arkansas Code Annotated 7-5-310, allows a friend or family member to help a voter. Poll workers are required to record the name and address of the helper, who is limited to helping six voters.

Is voter ID required at the polls? Poe described this as a “soft requirement.”

Poll workers must ask for IDs; voters can decline to show it.

Voters will be asked, and must provide, their names, dates of birth and addresses. That information will be checked against the county’s voter registration database. Conflicts in information — mostly changes of address — will then be resolved, Poe said.

How much time does a voter have with his ballot? Five minutes, according to state law, Poe said.

An early voter in Jacksonville last week took 15 minutes, Poe said, but that’s rare.

“Super inconsiderate,” he said.

Voters should know what’s on the ballot, Poe said, and verify their proper polling places.

As Poe explained these processes, a long line of early voters snaked out of the Pulaski County Regional Building at 501 W. Markham St. Early voting, he said, has greatly reduced the pressure of Election Day.

The number of early votes cast in the presidential election in 2012 was roughly the same as votes cast on Election Day — about 80,000 each, he said.

He predicted the same breakdown this year, but with an increase to about 175,000 voters based on population growth in Pulaski County and voter interest in the race for president.

Early voting continues this week through Saturday at eight sites in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Maumelle and Sherwood. Times are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Weekday voting at the regional building is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Statewide, about 282,000 people had voted early as of Monday, the secretary of state’s office reported.

Much has changed in the voting process, most importantly the technology.

Keith Rutledge of Batesville, director of the Board of Election Commissioners, ran for circuit judge in 1978, when paper ballots were counted by hand.

Counties now use either ballot scanners or touch-screen voting machines. Ten counties now use machines that combine both touch screens and paper ballots to be scanned.

“That eliminates ‘I pushed that button, and it voted for the other guy.’ A lot of people want to see their ballot and hold it in their hand,” Rutledge said.

“People want proof that their vote is their vote,” Davidson said.

Back in the deer woods, Troy Gray offered advice to voters.

Know what time the Election Day polls are open — 7:30 am. to 7:30 p.m. Those times are statewide, dictated by Arkansas Code Annotated 7-5-304.

“A number of people think we open at 7,” he said. “They go, ‘I’m here,’ but the guy says ‘we don’t open until 7:30.’ I see the frustration in their faces.”

It’s the same on the back end. “If you’re there at 7:29, you get to vote.” Otherwise, no.

Other advice? Be patient. “This is going to be a big election. There will be a lot of lines.”

Be considerate of the poll workers. Gray said Election Day for him will start at 6:15 a.m. and end about 8:30 p.m. He’ll get paid $150.

“I don’t do it for the money.”

And, “if you get to a polling place and you have a problem, there’s a chief judge whose job it is to make sure you have a good experience and get to vote.”

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