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Early voting begins for Arkansas primary and judicial races

by Michael R. Wickline | May 9, 2022 at 6:10 p.m.
A roll of stickers awaiting distribution to early voters sits on a table at the check-in station at the Pulaski County Courthouse Annex in Little Rock.

As early voting started Monday, officials in Arkansas' secretary of state's office projected that about 20% of the state's 1.76 million registered voters will cast ballots in this year's primary election.

That would up slightly from nearly 19% turnout in the 2018 primary election, said Kevin Niehaus, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office.

"We are expecting roughly 360,000 ballots cast in the 2022 preferential primary," he said.

The secretary of state's office came up with the estimate by looking at the 2014 and 2018 primary turnouts, Niehaus said.

"Presidential election years tend to have a higher voter turnout," he said.

Faulkner County Clerk Margaret Darter said Monday she expected a turnout rate of about 20%, or about 15,000 of the county’s 75,635 registered voters. She said she anticipates voter turnout will be similar to the turnout in the 2018 primary election when almost 14,000 voters cast ballots.

If the governor’s race “gets fired up” in this year’s primary, Darter said the voter turnout in Faulkner County could increase beyond what she anticipates.

In the primary, Republican candidates Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Doc Washburn, both of Little Rock, are vying for the party's nomination for governor. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is barred from seeking re-election under the state's term limits amendment.

Democratic candidates Anthony Bland, Chris Jones, Jay Martin and James "Rus" Russell and Supha Xayprasith-Mays, all of Little Rock, are jockeying in the primary for the party's nomination for governor.

The Republican and Democratic nominees will vie with Libertarian candidate Ricky Dale Harrington of Pine Bluff for governor in the Nov. 8 general election.

In Faulkner County, pest control specialist Art Noel of Conway, a retired Air Force technician, said he voted for Sanders.

"I love her," because Sanders "didn't back down" from defending President Trump as a White House press secretary, Noel said.

In Saline County, Barbara Williams of Benton, who is retired, said Monday that she considered voting for Washburn as the GOP gubernatorial nominee but voted for Sanders instead because there was too much mudslinging from Washburn's campaign.

She said she doesn't think former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is Sanders' father, is going to be running the state if Sanders is elected as governor.

"Sarah will work for the whole of Arkansas," Williams said. "If I'm wrong, we can vote her out."

Some voters in Pulaski County said they voted on the Democratic ticket because they wanted to see change in the Republican-dominated state.

“It’s time for a change. I want to see people that look like me in some of those offices,” said Ervin Harris Jr. of Sherwood., a 52-year-old retired military service member.

Harris said he planned to vote for Chris Jones in the Democratic primary.

Greg Bryant, an attorney in Little Rock, said he planned to vote for Martin because he knows him but thought Jones was an excellent choice too.

“I think Vladimir Putin would be a better choice than Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” he said.

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