Early voting continues today downtown only in the Little Rock School District property tax extension election, but early voting last week indicates a heightened interest.
As of this morning, 1,713 early votes had been cast, more than total votes in all in the last five school elections. In elections before the state takeover, total votes were 1,330 in 2012, 1,183 in 2013 and 1,507 in 2014. Board seats were contested in all those years. Participation was 296 in 2015 and 390 in 216, when only pro forma millage questions appeared on the ballot, as state law requires even when there’s no change in the tax. Only the extension of 12.4 mills of debt tax is on the ballot this week.
The spread of early voting:
* 433 at the Election Commission office at Markham and Broadway.
* 323 at the Williams Library at Wright Avenue and Chester.
* 166 at the Southwest Community Center on Baseline Road
* 595 at Second Presbyterian at Pleasant Valley Drive and Highway 10.
* 196 at the West Central Community Center on John Barrow Road.
Bryan Poe, the Commission director, said the office is still working through problems discovered by a voter who lives on Chambery Drive in western Little Rock. His child attends Little Rock schools, but he discovered his property is listed in the Pulaski County Special School District when he went to vote.
Poe said the discrepancy apparently resulted from a redistricting of the Pulaski County School District in 2011 and 2012, when zone lanes had to be withdrawn to reflect the loss of the Jacksonville area to the district. More precise mapping of the existing district boundaries, which weren’t changed, altered a district boundary line in that part of town from a street to a line that passed through the property of roughly 65 residences on that street and perhaps others. “We’re trying to work through it,” Poe said. Those assigned to the Pulaski District were mailed notices of their new election zones, Poe said.
Several others have inquired about proper district residency since the first complaint, Poe said. The county clerk ultimately will make the call on voter eligibility. All the voters will be allowed to cast provisional ballots in the election, Poe said, pending that determination.
UPDATE: Barrett Miller, the voter who made the initial inquiry, received letterd on the matter from the chairman of the Election Commission, Pat Hays and from the county clerk’s office. They provide some more insight on how this particular situation might have occurred. In short, it could be correct that his children are allowed to attend Little Rock schools, but he might not be able to vote in the election. First from Pat Hays:
Thank you for your email and for sharing your voting concerns with us. The PCEC definitely wants everyone to vote who is entitled to vote. I feel confident that between the clerk’s office and Mr. Poe, your situation can be resolved on Monday.
I don’t know if this is the case, but it could be that a neighborhood or part of a neighborhood is assigned to the LRSD although the property address is actually in Pulaski County. I know that at one time, the line separating LRSD and PCSSD divided the LaMarche neighborhood. For simplicity, all residents of LaMarche were allowed to attend LRSD schools, although their property was technically located in PCSSD and they paid PCSSD taxes. I recall that this was done so that children on one side of a street wouldn’t be in the LRSD while children across the street were in the PCSSD. I’m only guessing that you may be in a similar situation where an entire neighborhood is assigned to just one school district for attendance purposes, although your property may lie in the other school district’s boundaries. In your case, your children may be assigned to the LRSD, but your home may actually be in the PCSSD. If this is the case, you would not be allowed to vote in the LRSD election because you are a resident of the PCSSD. As I said, this is only a guess on my part. On Monday, we will provide you with a definite answer.
Please know that both the PCEC and the clerk’s office want every eligible voter to be able to vote. If there is a question, the poll workers are trained to offer a provisional ballot. I will ask Mr. Poe to make certain that is being done. Could you please let me know which early voting site you utilized?
Thank you very much for bringing this matter to our attention. We look forward to resolving this matter for you on Monday.
Then, from Chief Deputy County Clerk Brandon Wood:
As we discussed this morning, we have been working with staff at the Pulaski County Election Commission to determine whether your voting address should be in PCSSD or LRSD for voting purposes. To make these determinations, we rely on mapping data provided to us by Metroplan. According to Metroplan’s mapping data, your property appears to be divided by the school boundary such that your house is entirely in PCSSD, while your mailbox and a strip of your front yard are in LRSD. This is true for a number of houses on the west side of Chambery Dr. As has long been our practice, we have assigned your property to PCSSD for voting purposes, because your house appears to be entirely within the boundaries of PCSSD. I understand that both the Pulaski County Assessor and LRSD consider your property to be in LRSD. We will be working with the Assessor to determine whether or not we need to reassign your property for voting purposes so that your voting, taxation, and school assignments all match. As this may take several days to resolve, I would advise you to vote by provisional ballot. We will endeavor to reach a resolution on this matter before the Election Commission considers provisional ballots on 5/18. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.