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JPs approve plan for voting centers

Ballots can be cast at any polling site by Dave Hughes | June 23, 2017 at 2:38 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- Voters in Sebastian County will be able to cast ballots at any polling place in the county beginning with the Sept. 19 school election after the the Quorum Court approved the establishment of vote centers.

Sebastian County Election Commissioner Lee Webb told Quorum Court members Tuesday night that passage of the ordinance establishing the vote center system was the culmination of two years of work.

Webb said the ordinance will be sent to the Arkansas secretary of state's office as an application for the change. He said the application process was a formality.

"The Sebastian County Clerk has certified to the Quorum Court and the Secretary of State that the county has a secure electronic connection sufficient to prevent an elector from voting more than once and to prevent unauthorized access to a computerized registration book maintained by the county clerk," a portion of the ordinance reads.

Vote centers communicate with one another to notify them that a voter has arrived at a specific site to cast a ballot and prevent a voter from voting at another site, the commissioners wrote in a letter to the Quorum Court.

The difference between vote centers and regular voting places is that a registered voter can vote at any vote center in the county. Electronic poll books hold identities of all voters and have all the different ballots they must vote on.

In regular voting places, a person is assigned to a particular polling place and can only cast a ballot there.

Sebastian County will have 37 vote centers, 21 in Fort Smith and 16 in the rest of the county, according to a plan drawn up by the election commission.

Sebastian County was a part of a pilot program through which the secretary of state's office provided grants toward the purchase, with the county matching funds, of new electronic voting equipment.

The county purchased 104 electronic poll books, two to four of which will be used at each vote center.

The county also has 250 Express Vote touchscreen ballot markers that voters will use. The county will put at least two and up to 25 in each vote center.

"Every Express Vote touchscreen used has the capacity to hold every ballot style," the commission's plan said. "Sebastian County has held off-site early voting since 2015, which requires all touchscreens used to have the capacity to hold multiple ballot styles."

The votes will be tabulated on one of 54 DS200 vote tabulators. Each location will use a Wi-Fi hotspot provided by the election commission, the plan said.

Sebastian County will join 10 other counties in the state that have gone to vote centers. The others include Benton, Boone, Clark, Columbia, Faulkner, Garland, Miller, Montgomery, Saline and Washington.

Voters in Washington County have been using vote centers since 2015, election commission coordinator Jennifer Price said last spring.

State Desk on 06/23/2017

Print Headline: JPs approve plan for voting centers

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