Pulaski County's election panel gets two new members

Two new members have joined the three-person Pulaski County Election Commission, which oversees voting in the area.

Republican Commissioner Evelyn Gomez and Democratic Commissioner Joshua Price joined Republican Pat Hays on the committee. The new members replaced Leonard Boyle Sr. and Jason Davis.

Hays is entering her third term with the commission. Gomez and Price elected Hays as chairman. She continues to hold the position after her previous term.

Hays was the first Republican leader of the commission. She said she's excited to continue working to make voting easier for Pulaski County voters. The group has added six new early-voting sites, and Director of Elections Bryan Poe said the goal is to have 15 to 20 sites.

The plan is to leave these voting sites open during Election Day, marking a change from previous years when some early-voting sites closed on Election Day, Hays said.

"That can be very confusing if you've known for two weeks this is where you vote," Price said about closing early-voting sites on Election Day.

Hays said changing election sites can also be disconcerting for people who do not vote regularly.

"A lot of people vote very sporadically," which can mean they are unfamiliar with poll locations, Hays said.

The commission also hopes to draw in more poll workers from the younger population. Hays said the commission gets few poll workers younger than 65. Poll workers will serve 14-hour shifts, making $140 a day in 2020.

The new commissioners said they would like to increase voter education and transparency through their offices.

Price, whose mother is Filipino, said he thinks there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding voting in immigrant communities, where some people think they have to be U.S.-born citizens to vote. He said he would like to dispel rumors like these that prevent people from voting.

Gomez and Price said they want to make Pulaski County a leader in Arkansas voting.

"Pulaski County should be the flagship," Price said.

Gomez has a unique perspective on voting because she has worked in the Arkansas secretary of state's office and has lived throughout the country, which allowed her to observe different voting procedures, she said.

"I've seen elections through the other sides," Gomez said.

Gomez said she wants to ensure that Pulaski County voters get election results in a timely fashion.

"I didn't know who my congressman was when I went to sleep in the 2nd Congressional District because Pulaski County didn't have results in," Gomez said. "All our surrounding rest of our districts in the 2nd District did, and I'm hoping to see these positive changes, so we are not the last one to get things in."

Hays said this can be difficult because Pulaski County is the largest Arkansas county, usually having approximately 120 voting precincts.

All the commissioners said they'd like to see more people voting.

"You hear these horror stories about folks getting disenfranchised," Gomez said.

She said she'd like to do everything she can to help Pulaski County residents vote.

Election commissioners have two-year terms. There are no term limits. County political parties vote for commissioners. The majority party in the state executive branch holds two commission positions, and the minority party holds one, meaning Republicans have the most slots in this commission. The county parties can vote commissioners out of office at any time during their terms.

Metro on 02/18/2019