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Northwest Arkansas, River Valley counties prepare for early voting as other states battle long lines, poll worker shortages

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As election season looms, images of long lines at early voting sites are flooding newsfeeds, and voters continue to hear about poll worker shortages across the country. County election coordinators in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley said they’re prepared heading into early voting next week.

“We don’t anticipate having the long lines you’ve seen in places like Houston and Atlanta,” said Jennifer Price, an election commissioner for Washington County.

In Georgia and other states, some early voters stood in line for more than 10 hours on the first day they could participate in the early voting process. Problems with electronic machines coupled with social distancing to form a duo that caused long wait times. Price said those problems are concentrated in metropolitan areas, and Washington County will be immune.

“Lines may appear long because we can’t have as many people waiting inside the building, or we’re waiting in line at six-feet intervals,” Price said. “So, the lines may appear long, but actually it’s going pretty swiftly.”

The machines are ready to perform their tasks, Price said, and the county has more poll workers signed up than spots to fill for November’s elections. Many will be working during early voting, so Price said voters must be patient as the workers learn on the job.

“We’re just asking the public to be patient,” Price said. “Realize that this is a big process for all of us.”

In late September, a lack of signed-on poll workers forced Sebastian County to shut down a voting site in Lavaca. The county is no longer in that predicament, said election commissioner Meghan Hassler.

“We’re fully staffed at the moment, and we feel very comfortable and confident with our staffing,” Hassler said.

Hassler said people need to early vote with a plan instead of opting to simply show up on the first day or the last. This will reduce congestion at the polling sites and eliminate potential problems.

“The weekdays, Tuesday through Friday, Saturdays are usually really slow,” Hassler said.

Hassler said she expects voting to operate smoothly despite what’s happened in larger cities across the country early in the process.

“We’re hoping that it’s business as usual here since Sebastian County’s really embraced early voting,” Hassler said.

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