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Northwest Arkansas early votes pile up in two-county area

by Mike Jones | October 24, 2020 at 8:15 a.m.
Lt. Jason French of the Fayetteville Police Department prepares Friday to vote at Medical Arts Pharmacy in Fayetteville. The site is one of several open for early voting in Benton and Washington counties. Visit nwaonline.com/201024Daily/ for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

BENTONVILE -- Early voting through the first five days topped a combined 77,000 in Benton and Washington counties.

Benton County residents cast 45,574 early votes and Washington County saw 31,511 early votes, according to officials.

The Nov. 3 general election includes federal, state, county and municipal races. Some ballots will contain school board, community college and judicial runoff races.

Benton County had a one-day high of 9,519 early votes Tuesday. The county had three consecutive days with more than 9,000 early votes each. Benton County had 169,772 registered voters as of Friday.

"The turnout has been fantastic, and overall things have gone very smoothly, especially considering the challenges with spacing and sanitization that the election commission staff have had to deal with, along with training over 250 new poll workers," County Clerk Betsy Harrell said.

Washington County had a one-day high of 6,949 early votes Friday. Washington County had 140,834 registered voters as of Friday.

"Everything has run very smoothly," said Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Election Commission. "We have seen an increase in early voters at all of our locations. Our poll workers are working very hard to make sure that voting is accessible for everyone."

The county clerk's offices in both counties also continue to deal with absentee ballots.

In Washington County, about 12,394 absentee ballots were mailed, and 7,721 ballots returned as of Friday morning, Deputy Clerk Jamie Williams said.

Benton County processed 15,577 absentee ballot applications, mailed 15,498 absentee ballots and received 10,351 ballots back as of Friday morning, Deputy Clerk Samantha Hufford said.

Officials in the two counties will hold ballot drop-off events for absentee voters today and Oct. 31.

Voters need to bring an ID to show staff members when they return their ballots, Harrell said.

Absentee ballots can be dropped off in Benton County from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 215 E. Central Ave. in Bentonville, and county clerk's offices at 2111 W. Walnut St. in Rogers and 707 Lincoln St. in Siloam Springs.

The county administration parking lot could be crowded today. The Quorum Courtroom on the third floor is an early voting site. County clerk staff members will be just north of the main entrance, on the sidewalk next to the bike racks, to collect absentee ballots, Harrell said.

Absentee ballots can be dropped off in Washington County from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the County Courthouse, 212 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville.

More voting by absentee ballot is expected in this November general election than in previous elections because of covid-19. Guidelines to prevent the disease's spread include avoiding public gatherings such as a vote center.

The final day to request an absentee ballot be mailed is Tuesday. Harrell urged voters to get their absentee applications in as soon as possible because of the fast-approaching deadline.

Voters can see if their ballot has been accepted using the VoterView feature on the Arkansas Secretary of State website.

An Arkansas voter may request an absentee ballot application by contacting the county clerk in the county where registered, according to the Secretary of State website. Voters may download the application from their county websites.

The application can be submitted by fax, email, in person or mail, Price said.

Voters can return an absentee ballot in person to the county clerk's office. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in both counties. Voters must show identification. The deadline to return an absentee ballot in person is Nov. 2, Price said.

All absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Nov. 3 to be counted, Secretary of State John Thurston said.

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Dates to remember

Tuesday: Final day to request an absentee ballot be mailed.

Oct. 30: Final day to transfer registration within Arkansas.

Nov. 2: Final day to request an absentee ballot in person.

Nov. 3: Election day

Source: Benton County Clerk’s Office

Mike Jones can be reached by email at mjones@nwadg.com.

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