FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County election officials say they're prepared for a large absentee voter response, and they'll be ready to count those ballots when the polls close Election Day.
Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Election Commission, said she expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 absentee ballots will be cast for the Nov. 3 election.
More than 3,000 requests have been received, most in the Fayetteville area, Price said.
John Thurston, Arkansas Secretary of State, said recently about 42,000 Arkansans voted using absentee ballots in the 2016 presidential election. He speculated three times that number of voters may choose to vote absentee this year.
Price said she plans to have ballots that arrive before Election Day ready to count Nov. 2, leaving only those received Election Day to be canvassed.
Price wants to begin counting at 9 a.m. Nov. 3. Two counting machines will be available at the county courthouse. Price said she was able to count about 3,600 ballots an hour in a test.
"If we stay within this 10,000 ballot range, I would anticipate, hopefully, we could get everything counted that night," Price said. "The big question is how long will it take us to get them out of the envelopes and flatten them before we start running them through the machines."
Price said she hopes to have all early and absentee votes tabulated by 8 p.m. Election Day. Counting will be live-streamed for the public.
She should know two weeks out how many total absentee ballots to expect, Price said.
Price said a couple of polling locations won't be available this election, but there should still be 42 or 43 polling places open in the county on Election Day. In 2016, there were 45 polling places.
Price said she's still nailing down some early voting and election day sites. Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville is expected to host early voting this year.
Commissioners urged Price to do whatever she can to find alternative locations to alleviate crowds at the courthouse.
Early voting begins Oct. 19.
• Oct. 5: People who aren’t already registered to vote in Arkansas have until this date to register to vote in the Nov. 3 General Election
• Oct. 19: Early voting in the November General Election begins
• Oct. 27: Last day to request an absentee ballot application be mailed to you. Voters can still request a form for pickup.
• Nov. 3: Election Day. Polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Absentee ballots must be received by the close of voting hours to be counted.
Source: University of Arkansas Extension Service
Ron Wood can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWARDW.