Guest column: Voting in Arkansas 2020

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

We need to think seriously about the election for state and local offices in addition to all of the current attention to the presidential candidates. A friend recently asked me when and how to see names of the candidates on the ballot for our county. Also how to request an Absentee Ballot and how to Register to Vote if someone is not currently registered. This is such a critical election and we ALL need to participate.  I am writing to share my personal, nonpartisan “citizen opinion: about the importance of this year’s election with no reference to any specific candidates or political parties.

Seeing the slate of candidates for state and local positions as soon as possible will enable us to identify names of candidates for whom we need more information about their qualifications. My friend pointed out that sometimes we don’t know much (or anything!) about some of the candidates before we go to our polling place. Sadly, I am sorry to say that has occasionally been true for me.

Candidates’ names are listed on the website BallotReady.org/ar then select your county. Some of the candidates listed for your county may not be in your precinct, district, etc. To determine which offices for which you will vote, you need to know your precinct and ward, school district zone, districts for senator, representative, etc. This is listed on your voter registration card. If you do not have that at hand, contact your County Clerk’s office.

To obtain the actual ballot to use, check VoterView.org in October. You can print it and see names of specific candidates for whom you may vote as well as proposed constitutional amendments. This will give you time to research the candidates and the issues. You can mark that ballot to take to the polls with you and save time as you cast your vote. You may only MAIL in your completed ballot if you have submitted an Application for Absentee Vote.

Completed absentee ballots must be delivered in person or by postal mail (NOT email) before closing on election day. The U.S. Postal Service states we should mail our absentee ballots no later than “one week before the election date” (online at: about.usps.com  Then select Election Mail. (website accessed by this author on Aug. 29).

After we have identified the names of candidates on the ballot, we can learn more about them by asking friends and acquaintances, reading the newspaper, watching television news programs, and researching online — but be wary of possible misinformation there and in social media (“fake news”). Numerous fact checkers are available online, for example: VoteSmart.org, FactChecker.org, AllSides.com, Snopes.com and more.

Information about state statutes governing the election process in Arkansas can be found

online from the Arkansas State Board of Election

Commissioners at: Arkansas.gov/sbec. The FAQs section covers specific topics such as the date of the election, early voting, absentee voting, special elections, school elections, runoffs, etc. The process begins with each county’s Election Commission. After the deadline for candidates to file, the commission will approve the ballot for their county, order its printing, and notify the public “in a newspaper in general circulation in the county:”  the date of the election, the hours of voting on election day, the polling places and times for early voting, the polling sites for holding the election, and the candidates and offices to be elected. (Arkansas Statute 7-5-202)  (accessed by this author on Aug. 21)

I have been told that in Carroll County the ballots are expected to be printed in early September and available in early October. The ballot will be published in the newspaper. Contact your County Clerk’s office to register to vote, confirm that you are registered to vote, or to register for an absentee ballot. Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s executive order of August 7, 2020 states that “the fear of exposure to Covid-19 or of exposing others at the polls is reason enough for a voter to cast an absentee vote.” The State Board of Election Commissioners passed Resolution No. 4 of 2020 on the same topic. The absentee ballot form is available online on the Secretary of State’s website  sos.arkansas.gov/elections/voter-information/absentee-voting or you could request it from your County Clerk’s office which they can mail or email to you. You can complete it and return it only by postal mail.

Elections this year are very important for state and local positions as well as for the national positions. Many key decisions are made by local authorities which affect our daily lives. For example school boards and administrators developed the plans and alternative options to reopen the schools in their districts (in consultation with the Arkansas State Board of Health to be sure they comply with state guidelines).

We currently face many problems, issues, and challenges. Working together we can find the best solutions to create our “new normal.” We must all VOTE and work together! Voting is the best way to have our voices heard and to make a difference. 

— Andrea Cantrell