Election Commission making plans for November voting
Polling Centers, larger venue for Early Voting in the works
By RALPH HARDIN
The Nov. 3 elections are just a little more than three months away. With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of stopping, officials here and around the country are taking steps to make voting safer and more convenient.
The Crittenden County Election Commission is making its own plans. Commissioners are looking to implement the use Vote Centers for the upcoming November election. The plan calls for all of the existing polling locations to become a designated vote center, aka “polling centers.”
“What that means to voters in the county is that they can go to any polling location and vote there regardless of where they live in the county and regardless of where their traditional polling location has been located,” explained Election Commissioner Frank Barton.
“It is a major convenience to the voter,” said Election Commission chairman Dixie Carlson. “If they are a registered voter, they can vote the correct ballot at any of our Polling locations. For example, a voter from Earle could be shopping in West Memphis on Election Day and vote at one of the West Memphis polling locations. It will also fix the problem of people going to the wrong poll. At each election we have people that show up at the wrong location, refuse to go to the correct location,
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and they vote a provisional ballot. Unfortunately, since the ballot they are given was not the correct one for their residence, we do not count that ballot. Vote Centers will eliminate that problem.”
Barton said while this would be the first time the county as a whole has used the polling center model, it is not the first time vote centers have been used in the county. “We have used the vote center concept recently in the West Memphis bond election last year,” he said. “Since it was a special election for West Memphis only, the same issue was before the whole city, and West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon requested it. We set the election machines up so that everyone could vote at any location. The election went smoothly.”
Barton said one of the chief hurdles to overcome with Vote Centers is the need to prevent a person from voting at one location and then going to another location to cast another ballot. He said this would not be an issue.
“This would be prevented because each polling location is electronically connected to the database of registered voters,” he said. “As soon as someone checks into a polling location and is issued a ballot the system prevents another ballot from being issued to that voter.”
Arkansas law was amended several years ago to allow vote centers to be used in counties that can certify that they have security in place to prevent someone from voting twice. Currently 38 counties in Arkansas have authorized Vote Centers including, Craighead, Cross, and Poinsett.
The Election Commission still must get the Quorum Court to approve Vote Centers and they were at the recent July meeting, along with West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon to ask the county’s governing body to approve the ordinance prepared by County attorney Joe Rogers. But, the meeting was cut short when six of the justices walked out of the meeting before the ordinance item came up on the agenda.
“We still have time to implement it if it gets approved at the August meeting”, said Carlson.
County Judge Woody Wheeless recently conducted an informal poll on Facebook and found an overwhelming majority of the public favored the implementation of the Vote Center model.