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Early voting begins for May 24 primary election; Northwest Arkansas voters start casting their ballots

Election officials report first-day turnout lower than expected by Tom Sissom | May 10, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Poll worker Elizabeth Gagliardi (from left) gives instructions to Benton County resident Pete Iles before he votes Monday at the Benton County Administration Building in Bentonville. Several locations in Northwest Arkansas held early voting. Check out nwaonline.com/220510Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

Election officials in Benton and Washington counties said the first day of early voting for the May 24 primary election was slower than expected.

"I thought we would be a lot busier," Jennifer Price, executive director for the Washington County Election Commission, said Monday afternoon. "The county courthouse has been the busiest of the voting sites so far."

"It's been slow, but steady," Benton County Clerk Betsy Harrell said Monday afternoon, adding that Benton County election officials had seen no real problems.

"It's just been the usual first day kind of things where you may find a machine isn't working when you go to set up," Harrell said.

Early voting began Monday and will end May 23.

Washington County had encountered no problems with voting equipment, staffing or delays for voters, Price said.

"Everything got set up and going very smoothly," she said.

Price said the most frequent issue her poll workers had dealt with is a recurring one.

"It's ballot selection," Price said. "In every primary election, we have to explain to voters that they have to choose which party primary election they want to vote in."

Price said there is one change in voter identification requirements for this election year that could impact some voters. In past elections, if a voter was unable to show a proper photo ID, he could sign a voter statement and was able to cast a provisional ballot. Now, she said, voters who are unable to show a proper ID have to return to the county clerk's office to show legal identification or their votes will not count.

Price said the law gives voters until noon on the Monday after an election to go to the clerk's office to show an ID, but this year that Monday is Memorial Day, so the deadline is noon May 31.

Chris Bright of Bentonville said voting is a civic duty and he always votes. Bright voted Monday at the Benton County Administration Building.

Early voting is more convenient compared to the risk of long lines on Election Day, Bright said.

Diane Kuznia of Bentonville said she also believes early voting is convenient. She voted Monday and said early voting helps her avoid standing in line on Election Day.

Jennifer Swartout of Bentonville voted Monday. She said voting is a priority to her.

"Everybody should vote," she said. "Everybody should have equal and easy access to vote."

With open primaries for the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat at the top of the ballot in Arkansas, officials said they expect voter turnout in the May 24 election to hit close to 2018 primary levels.

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston's office predicted a turnout rate of about 20% among registered voters, or 360,000 ballots cast, up slightly from 19% in 2018. There are about 1.7 million registered voters in the state.

The statewide turnout in other recent midterm primary elections was 21% in 2014 and 29% in 2010, according to Thurston spokesman Kevin Niehaus, who said the office reached this year's estimate by looking at the last two primary cycles.

"Presidential election years tend to have a higher turnout," Niehaus said. "We expect 2022 to have more ballots cast than 2014 because with redistricting there are more state and county seats on the ballot than in other elections."

Benton County election administrator Dana Caler predicted a turnout of about 20% this year, compared to 2018's 12% and 2014's 17%. Benton County reported 826 voters Monday.

"Just because the amount of registered voters keeps going up," she said.

Price said she expected a higher than normal turnout for this year's primary and encouraged voters to take advantage of early voting to avoid lines on election day.

The county saw a 24% voter turnout rate in the 2018 primary. As of Monday evening, 673 people had voted, compared with 2018's first day total of 438.

Nesa Bishop, chief deputy for the Sebastian County clerk's office, said the number of voters was near 600 as of Monday evening. She said that number was a lot lower than normal for the first day of early voting, when it is usually over 1,000.

"We were just talking about it earlier and wondering why it was so low," she said. "I have no idea the reason behind it. We were kind of amazed about it ourselves."

Information for this article was contributed by Rachel Herzog and Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

  photo  Dan Baker, a longtime law enforcement officer and deputy with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, votes Monday at the Washington County Courthouse. Visit nwaonline.com/220510Daily/ for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)
 
 


Early voting locations

Voters may cast a ballot at any polling place in the county where they are registered to vote. Voters must provide a form of identification. No bags or purses are allowed in the Benton County Administration Building.

BENTON COUNTY

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and May 21; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 23

• Administration Building, 215 E. Central Ave., Suite 324, Bentonville

• County Clerk’s Office, 2111 W. Walnut St., Rogers

• Benton County Election Commission, 2109 W. Walnut St., Rogers

• County Clerk’s Office, 707 S. Lincoln St., Siloam Springs

8 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 23

• First Landmark Baptist Church, 206 S.E. 28th St., Bentonville

• Sunnyside Baptist Church, 210 E. Locust St., Rogers

• Rogers Convention Center, 3303 S. Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Rogers

• Reach Church, 900 W. Centerton Blvd., Centerton

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20 and May 23

• Siloam Springs Community Building, 110 N. Mount Olive St., Siloam Springs

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20

• Grace Lutheran Church, 415 N. Sixth Place, Lowell

• New Life Christian Church, 103 Riordan Road, Bella Vista

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20

• Gravette Civic Center, 401 Charlotte St. S.E., Gravette

• NEBCO Community Building, 17823 Marshall St., Garfield

WASHINGTON COUNTY

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and May 21; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 23

• Washington County Courthouse, 280 N. College Ave., Fayetteville

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and May 21

• Covenant Presbyterian Church, 4511 W. Wedington Drive, Fayetteville

• Elmdale Baptist Church, 1700 W. Huntsville Ave., Springdale

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

• Prairie Grove Fire Station, 141 S. Neal St., Prairie Grove

• Elkins Community Center, 162 Doolin Drive, Elkins

• West Fork Community Center, 222 Webber St., West Fork

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16-20; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

• Medical Arts Pharmacy, 2515 E. Huntsville, Fayetteville

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and May 16, 18, 19 and 20; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 17

• Tontitown City Hall, 235 E. Henri De Tonti Blvd., Tontitown

The following locations will be open for one to three days for early voting:

• Bud Walton Arena, 1270 Nolan Richardson Drive, Fayetteville, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

• Fayetteville Public Library, 401 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday

• Shiloh Meeting Hall, 121 W. Huntsville Ave., Springdale, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

• Rise Physical Therapy, 2668 E. Citizens Drive, Fayetteville, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

• Lincoln Community Center, 112 Boyer Ave., Lincoln, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 19 and 20.

 



Print Headline: Early voting begins in primary

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