ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Monday is the first day of early voting for the general election. In Rogers, the line is wrapped around the Benton County Election Commission Monday morning. It’s one of 12 locations open today for early voting and we’re told the turnout is expected to be pretty high.
Communications Director for Benton County, Channing Barker said they have over 168,000 people registered to vote in the county and over 13,000 requested absentee ballots leaving a large majority of folks coming in to vote in person.
Political Science Professor at the University of Arkansas, Andrew Dowdle said that historically the number of people who vote early continues to grow.
The early voting period can vary from state to state. Here in Arkansas, it takes place starting October 19 to November 2, with some sites open on Saturdays.
Dowdle said the state of Arkansas was one of the first few states to adopt early voting.
“Arkansans really do like early voting. The percentage of voters that end up turning out increased over the years. Arkansas is one of the leaders in terms of the highest percentage of voters that pick the early voting option. We have done it for a while and people are familiar with it,” said Dowdle.
Barker said the election commission and county clerk have worked diligently for months to prepare for this election. They have several safety measures in place, things like social distancing practices, the addition of plexiglass, and the use of a stylus and other methods to reduce the need for a person to person contact.
With the coronavirus pandemic looming over us and its unpredictability, Barker’s advice… don’t wait to the last minute to know how and where you are going to vote.
“The best way to plan your vote is to do something about it right now, instead of…oh, I have COVID-19. It’s two days before elections and I’m probably not going to be able to go into an election or polling site because I don’t want to get anyone else sick. So it’s better to plan now so you do not have to be in that compromising position,” said Barker.
Ken Russell and Shirley Marchant were the first two in line.
“I got here at 5 in the morning. I wanted to ensure I was first in and first out. I also wanted to make sure I got on a clean machine because there are going to be a lot of people voting,” said Russell.
“I thought it wouldn’t be as crowded and I would be able to better socially distance,” said Marchant.
If you are voting early, Barker recommends going during non-busy hours, a Saturday, or after the lunch rush to beat the crowds.
She also recommends taking a look at the sample ballots ahead of time to reduce the amount of time you need inside polling locations.
For those who have chosen not to vote in person, the last day you can request an absentee ballot is October 27th.