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story.lead_photo.caption Annie Depper, with the state Democratic Party, talks about the importance of poll watchers during an announcement Friday in North Little Rock at the North Heights Recreation Center, a popular voting site, to introduce a “voter protection hotline” set up by the party. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The Democratic Party of Arkansas is launching a hot line for voters who encounter problems when casting ballots during early voting, which begins Monday, through Election Day, Nov. 3.

The party's Voter Protection Team as well as volunteers who are lawyers or law students will man the Voter Protection Hotline, the party announced during a news conference Friday. The hot line will be active when polls open and one hour after polls close. Callers can leave messages after hours.

"We just want voters to know that the stakes are so high with the issues around absentee ballots, with the volume that we are going to see on Election Day and the days leading up to it," Michael John Gray, state Democratic Party chairman, said.

"We want to make sure all voters of Arkansas have the resources and availability to have questions answered, to have issues addressed and to know there is someone on the line from Arkansas who can help them," he said.

[RELATED: Full coverage of elections in Arkansas »]

Gray said the hot line is open to voters from all political parties and can be used not only to report problems but also as a resource for information about polling locations or concerns about ballots.

Annie Depper, the state Democratic Party's legal counsel, encouraged voters to call as soon as they experience a problem or need any type of help with the voting process.

"We are here to support you and to provide you a solution with whatever you may encounter," Depper said. "Don't wait a day. Don't wait a week. Contact us the moment you see something happening."

Some problems the state Democratic Party is anticipating include long lines as well as voters possibly being turned away over confusion about identification requirements. Arkansans can now use various forms of state or federal identification, such as a passport, student ID card or voter verification form.

Gallery: Voter Hotline

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"We are hopeful that the only problem we have to deal with are problems of misinformation," said Hannah Burdette, state Democratic Party voter protection organizer. "We will give people the correct information so they can advocate for themselves and hopefully the situation is fixed."

Burdette said they are monitoring instances of voter intimidation and are encouraging voters who are turned away to request a provisional ballot, which is used to record a vote when there are questions about an individual's eligibility.

A local election commission reviews such ballots before the vote is counted.


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