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story.lead_photo.caption Voter registration clerk Bart Moreland (left) helps Little Rock resident Ginny McMurry change the address on her voter registration Thursday at the Pulaski County county clerk’s office in Little Rock. Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the May 22 primary and nonpartisan judicial elections. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

People are registering to vote for the May 22 elections at a pace typical of previous years, according to the secretary of state's office.

Monday is the deadline to sign up in order to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary elections and the nonpartisan judicial general election.

While there has been a slight uptick in submitted registration forms in the past couple of weeks, it is consistent with previous primary elections, said Chris Powell, a spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin.

"We will see another, larger increase this fall as we get closer to the November election," Powell said.

The registration process -- which is administered through the secretary of state's office -- has gone smoothly so far, Powell added.

The primaries will decide party nominees, some of whom will then face opposition in the fall. The offices on ballots include U.S. House seats; statewide positions, including governor; and legislative seats. Also on the ballot will be the offices of county judge, justice of the peace and sheriff. Some school elections and local ballot issues also are on ballots for May 22.

As of Thursday, Arkansas has 1,742,761 registered voters, according to Martin's office. That's more than 75 percent of the state's age-eligible population of about 2.3 million.

An increase in voter registrations of 18-year-olds was expected after students across the nation marched to demand stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 mass shooting deaths of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

A report last week from USA Today said those numbers have yet to materialize. In Tallahassee, the center of the Florida protests, there are 4,673 fewer younger voters since March 2017, the report states.

In Arkansas, there are 16,975 18-year-olds registered, according to the secretary of state's office.

There is no way to know if that number has changed because age information is not stored retroactively, Powell said.

"We don't regularly track that, specifically," he said.

Washington County Clerk Becky Lewallen, who took office in 2013, said there were 384 voter registrations received from 18- to 20-year-olds in the past three months.

"We're getting a few registrations, but nothing dramatic," Lewallen said.

Overall, Washington County had 1,821 new voter registrations of all eligible ages in the past three months -- 75 fewer than the same period for the 2014 primary election.

Civic groups, such as the League of Women Voters, teachers and county clerks work throughout the year in the state's high schools to register young people to vote.

Someone doesn't have to be 18 to register to vote but only has to certify that he will turn 18 before or on election day, Powell said.

The secretary of state's office hosts "Young Voter" workshops for high school students. They also sign up students at Boys State and Girls State and when eligible students tour the Capitol. The staff regularly visits college campuses and offers voter-registration opportunities.

"We encourage young people to register and to participate in the process," Powell said.

Madison County Clerk Faron Ledbetter said he visits local schools regularly to register young voters and educate them on the process. He even holds mock elections that include local ballots.

"The students can vote the same ballot that their parents are going to vote," Ledbetter said. "We've done this for almost 20 years and that's generated a lot of interest. We're able to get the students as they turn 18."

Ledbetter said the registration process is going smoothly so far and the county's voter rolls were recently updated because of a change in polling sites.

"We work very hard to keep the voter-registration list accurate and up to date," Ledbetter said. "We sent out new voter cards. If they've moved, we get it back 'undeliverable' and we put them in as inactive. That forces that person to come in and update their information."

The county's registered voter pool grew by leaps and bounds in the 2012 general election, Ledbetter said, when the decision of whether to allow alcohol sales was put up for a vote.

"We had been a dry county for 70 years," Ledbetter said."We had a lot of people in the county that maybe had not ever voted before. It seemed everybody had an opinion on the wet-and-dry issue. We really had an increase. It was amazing."

About 6,600 voters turned out at the polls that day and the initiative passed with about 57 percent of the votes, allowing alcohol in Madison County.

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said the registration period is going smoothly, but they have not had a "huge flood of people coming in to register."

"It's pretty much normal," Crane said. "There has been some response to the efforts by several high schools who have conducted registration programs. I'm excited when you can get folks to register."

If anyone misses Monday's deadline, prospective voters will have more chances to sign up to participate in this year's other elections.

If there are any primary races with at least three candidates in which none receives a majority of votes, the winner will be decided in a June 19 runoff election. The deadline to register to vote for that election is May 21.

Judicial runoffs will be decided in the Nov. 6 general election. The deadline to sign up to vote in the general election is Oct. 9.

Metro on 04/20/2018

Print Headline: Voter sign-ups go smoothly; Monday deadline to register for May 22 primary elections

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