FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — Local election officials say making sure voters and poll workers stay safe is a top priority during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, they’re bracing for a spike in this year's absentee ballots as more stay home.
“Normally we have about 1,800 absentee ballots cast,” said Washington County Election Coordinator Jennifer Price. “We are well close to 9,000 absentee ballots right now.”
It seems that more people are voting this election than ever before and with the surplus of mail-in ballots, that means more hands on deck.
“We’re going to be bringing in about 30 extra set of hands just to go through the absentee ballots,” said Benton County Communications Director Channing Barker.
Both Washington and Benton County Election officials say a big voter turnout is expected this year. More than 168,000 people are registered to vote in Benton County and there are nearly 140,000 registered voters in Washington County.
On Aug. 7, Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an executive order granting voters the ability to vote absentee.
The order also allows election officials to begin canvassing absentee ballots 15 days before Election Day to coincide with early voting.
“We will actually start canvassing and that’s just putting the paperwork of the voter application to the voter statement to make sure that absentee ballot is eligible to be counted,” Price said.
Price says nothing will be counted until Election Day.
“That includes the early votes even though they're cast during early vote we actually won’t run tapes or have results on those until after 7:30 after the polls close on Election Day," Price said. "So our procedure is exactly the same to what we’ve done in previous years it’s just we have a lot of absentee ballots to canvass than ever before."
Early voting in Arkansas begins Oct. 19 and the final day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. You can track the status of your absentee ballot by following this link.