The City of Little Rock is adjusting traffic patterns to cope with an expected influx of voters turning in absentee ballots.
City officials announced Thursday the restrictions on streets around the Pulaski County courthouse, which is the only drop-off site for absentee ballots ahead of the November election. Pulaski County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth says that’s to accommodate a record number of absentee voters this election cycle.
"Our office has received, processed and mailed out more than 22,000 absentee ballots. That means approximately 8% of the electorate have the means to cast their vote before polls even open on Monday," Hollingsworth said. "Although we have no idea how many absentee voters will actually return their ballots, it is our job to be ready to efficiently handle those ballots when they do return them."
Jon Honeywell is the city’s Director of Public Works, and says the city will be closing a block of Second Street between Spring Street and Broadway beginning next Monday to allow for a drive-through ballot drop off point. He says the adjacent block of Second Street between Center and Spring streets will be reduced to one lane to allow cars to queue for dropping off ballots.
"We’re asking drivers that are going to be accessing Second Street to drop off their ballots to get to that location by either coming westbound on Second Street from Main Street or Center Street, or from Markham from Main Street or Louisiana to avoid the Spring Street intersection if possible," Honeywell said.
The restrictions will last from Oct. 19 through Oct. 31 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 2. Hollingsworth says the drive-through service will help voters to limit physical contact while dropping off their ballots.
"Once they enter, one of our deputy clerks, wearing a mask, will come to their vehicle, request their photo ID and have them sign a voter log. They would then deposit the voter’s ballot into a locked container, and we will have sheriff’s deputies near our containers to make sure that the ballots are certainly secure," Hollingsworth said.
Voters wishing to receive an absentee ballot by mail must request one from the county clerk’s office by Oct. 27, and can mail in their ballots or drop them off at the courthouse. Early in-person voting in Arkansas begins next Monday, Oct. 19, while Election Day is Nov. 3.
Voters can currently drop off their absentee ballots outside of the Pulaski County courthouse, though the drive-through service does not begin until next week. Hollingsworth urged voters to call her office’s voter hotline at 501-340-6978 if they have not received an absentee ballot more than two weeks after submitting a request.