Thousands of voters wishing to avoid coronavirus-laden droplets at the polls and live to see the results of Election Day Nov. 3 have applied to the Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk’s Office to receive absentee ballots, and thousands more are expected. As of Aug. 19, 57 days before the deadline to request a mailed ballot, 8,312 applications had been received by the office. Already the number exceeds 8,000, the total received for the 2016 presidential election.
Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Terri Hollingsworth confesses that she is beginning to lose a bit of sleep over handling the load. Help her out by applying quickly so you can get your ballot, which will be printed in mid-September, early. (Click on the voter registration and application forms below for reference.)
Then, make sure your absentee ballot counts by providing precisely the same information on the application and the voter statement that you will return with your ballot. Even the slightest difference will disqualify your ballot. Pulaski County Assistant Director of Elections Shawn Camp gave the following example: Say on your application, you write that your address is 123 Main St. But on your voter statement that accompanies the ballot you write 123 Main St., Apt. 6. Bam! Your ballot is disqualified. “In Arkansas, the [election] laws are very precise,” Camp said, fraught with the potential for failure.
If you don’t have an I.D. to include with your ballot, you may vote provisionally — but your vote won’t be counted until after Election Day (and before the Election Commission meets to declare the official tally). You don’t want to make us wait, do you?
Because not everyone has access to a copier (and because a reason people ask for an absentee ballot in the first place may be because they are staying home to avoid a deadly virus), Hollingsworth has been talking to groups like the League of Women Voters to provide a copy-making service.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
• Read the tips for completing the form to register. Also: If you will turn 18 before Nov. 3, go ahead and fill out the voter registration application.
• Read the information in the green boxes on the ballot application. Fear of COVID-19 is a valid excuse for voting absentee, per a directive by Governor Hutchinson. Check the top box under “I request an absentee ballot” saying you will be unavoidably absent from your polling place.
• Oct. 10 is the last day to request a mailed ballot, but because the clerk’s office needs a good idea of how many ballots it will need to print sooner than that, and because the ballots are expected to flood the mail, don’t wait until then. Get the ball rolling now.
• Ballots will be printed around Sept. 17-18, Hollingsworth said. When you receive your ballot, “I would like folks to take five days to read the ballot and immediately send it back,” Hollingsworth said. Mailing it back will require three stamps.
• Include a copy of a valid I.D. — a driver’s license, state I.D., handgun license, U.S. passport, military I.D., college I.D., public assistance card with photo I.D., voter I.D. card issued by the county clerk — with the ballot. If you are unable to make a copy, you must sign your name in two places: The first attests that you are a registered voter and your information is correct, and the second serves as an affidavit of identity. Providing there is no problem with the information on the voter statement (which must be identical to the information on the application), your vote will be provisional, but it will be counted — starting the day after the election and through the next 13 days before the Election Commission declares the official tally, 15 days after Election Day. If a ton of qualified provisional ballots (no errors, signed in two places, etc.) come in, it could be a while before the final vote is known.
The Election Commission is shy about 600 to 800 poll workers. To volunteer, email PCEC@votepulaski.net.