1,095 Pulaski County voters showed up at the polls for the first day of early voting for the election on March 3, according to numbers from the Pulaski County Election Commission. According to Joshua Price, an election commissioner for the county, that number is lower than expected.
"I think due to the weather and to the rain, we didn’t have the turnout that we normally get, but we did still have over 1,000 people vote in Pulaski County," Price said. However, Price does expect a much better turnout Wednesday, due to the better weather. The election commission is keeping both a daily tally and a running tally of all early voting before the election.
Arkansas’s primary moved up to Super Tuesday this year, thanks to a law passed by state legislators in 2019. Price said he thinks the move has increased Arkansas’s importance in the primary season.
"I think with it moving back up to March, we had Amy Klobuchar visit. We had Michael Bloomberg recently visit. So Arkansas is now kind of being targeted by these presidential candidates as a state to come in and visit because of the fact that we are casting our ballots early on Super Tuesday," Price said. The upcoming election also benefits from simply happening during a presidential election year, according to Price.
"Presidential years are always going to have a lot more voter turnout than non-presidential years. And with this being an especially big year and having so many Democratic candidates on the ballot, we expect…well we’re hoping for really good voter turnout this year and we expect to have that," Price said. In addition to the presidential primaries, voters will also choose a state Supreme Court justice, four circuit judgeships and a state district court judge, according to the nonpartisan sample ballot from the commission.
For this year, 11 early voting locations are available. That’s two more than offered before, with the John Gould Fletcher Library and the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library opening its doors to early voters. Price said more sites mean fewer geographic gaps with no polling places.
"We really just want to make sure we’re removing any obstacles that may be in the path of Pulaski County voters and make it easier for them to vote and make the process as expedited and simple as possible. So where we saw gaps, we thought 'Let’s go ahead and fill those gaps' and see what areas are willing to be an early voting site," Price said. The primary’s move to March from May also means the commission is short on poll workers, according to Price.
"Normally we have about 1,200 just kind of in our bank of poll workers. We normally lose about 20% every election cycle just because they either age out, or they move or they just can’t do it anymore," Price said. "So I think right now we’re at 900 and something. We really need about a thousand to be able to conduct the election as smoothly and efficiently as possible." Price said they are looking for workers from all party affiliations. Those interested in becoming poll workers can find more information on the election commission’s website.
Though one day of data is not enough to predict how early voting will ultimately go in the county, Price said he’s heard from plenty of voters anecdotally.
"I’ve had a lot of people, voters and candidates and just everyone in Pulaski County approach me, asking about early voting and how excited they are to be able to go out and cast their vote in this presidential primary," Price said.
Early voting is available from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. at all of the locations except the Pulaski County Regional Building, which opens at 8 a.m. All of the early voting sites can be found on the election commission’s website. Voter registration can be checked at the county clerk’s website. Voters need a photo I.D. to be able to vote. However, Price says if you do not have one and must cast a provisional ballot, you should still vote.
"We count every single provisional and absentee ballot that comes through that office and we actually count it publicly during our meetings. So if you think your provisional ballot won’t count, I promise you it will count," Price said.