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New Arkansas laws will change how we vote this May

Several laws passed in the legislature in 2021 will now be in effect for the May primaries in Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Early voting kicks off one week from Monday for Arkansas's primary election, but before you head to the polls there are some new laws effecting how we vote.

Last year, the Arkansas General Assembly passed four laws changing the way we vote. Some legal challenges tried to prevent those laws from going into effect, but ultimately the courts decided to keep them in place until at least after the primaries.

Secretary of State John Thurston is responsible for making sure elections run smoothly and properly in the Natural State.

"I believe any election law should be handled legislatively, and if they are challenged in court than it's obviously the court's," Thurston said.

The first law deals with who is allowed at the polls, more specifically it bans non-voters from coming within 100 feet of polling locations. This is supposedly to prevent electioneering or campaigning around the polls.

The second new law enforces matching signatures on your absentee application and voter registration. If a county clerk checks both and they don't match up you won't get an absentee ballot sent to you and you will have to vote in person.

The third law moves absentee ballot deadlines. Now, voters must turn in their absentee ballot the Friday before election day. The deadline used to be up to one day before the election.

Finally, the fourth new law tightens the rules requiring a photo ID to vote.

"We have, you know, I guess one of the strongest voter ID laws probably in the nation," Thurston said.

Before, you could sign a form swearing you are who you say you are and cast a provisional ballot. Now you must show your ID or you won't be able to vote.

If you show up to the poll without your ID, you can vote provisionally, but it won't be officially counted until you show an ID to the county clerk. You have until the Monday after Election Day to do that.

If you don't have a driver's license, there are a number of other ID's you can use, including:

  • Voter ID card
  • Concealed carry license
  • US passport
  • Arkansas college/university employee badge
  • US military identification document

"The main thing is we want to make sure that the individual is who they say they are," Thurston said

Here are the important dates to keep in mind for elections this year:

  • Early voting for Primaries: Monday, May 9 - Monday, May 23
  • Election Day for Primaries: Tuesday, May 24
  • Run off for Primaries: Tuesday, June 21
  • General Election: Tuesday, November 8

If you wanted to vote in the primary election that deadline to register has already passed, but you can register to vote for the primary run offs. That deadline is Monday, May 23.