This year’s voting process has already experienced more turmoil than most previous elections. In response, the Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) announced Friday that it created a voter protection hotline.
Concerns about the coronavirus triggered a significant increase in requests for absentee ballots. In Pulaski county alone, around 22,000 absentee ballot requests have been processed. Accusations and fears over attempts at voter suppression across the country have made national headlines. Hannah Burdette, who oversees the hotline (501.299.5589) for the DPA, said these are some reasons an Arkansas-specific hotline is needed.
"Because of escalated concerns generally in the voting process, people may have a lot more questions and they may need more support this election cycle than ever before. So, that's really what prompted this hotline," Burdettte said. "Because we know that Arkansans may be a little bit more nervous going to the polls this year and we want to make sure that everyone can safely and fairly cast their ballots."
Burdette says over 150 attorneys, law students and other volunteers from around the state will be available to answer questions or address concerns. The hotline will be staffed during the hours the polls are open, including during early voting, which begins Monday.
"The Democratic Party and the hotline operators truly are not concerned about how you cast your ballot or who it is that you're voting for. We want to make sure that every single eligible voter in Arkansas is able to safely and freely vote, so whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, you can call us, and we will help," Burdette said.
The DPA is also hosting trainings for poll watchers who can report irregularities at the polls or answer questions from voters. According to Burdette, state law requires poll watchers be authorized by one of the state's political parties, by a candidate, or by a ballot initiative campaign, so all poll watchers and hotline volunteers have been authorized by the DPA.
The American Civil Liberties Union uses a similar national hotline to answer voters' questions about when and how to vote and to track incidents of voter intimidation and ballot denial.
In an email, spokesman for the Republican Party of Arkansas Seth Mays, said, "The Republican Party of Arkansas wants every vote to count, and every vote to be a legal vote."