BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Early voting started in Arkansas and at polling locations all across our area. Lines were long with hundreds waiting to cast their vote, and at some locations that meant waiting outside in the rain.
A record-breaking 9,388 voters went to the polls on day one of early voting in Benton County.
In 2012, there were just 2,800 votes on the first day of early voting. In 2016 there were 5,539 votes on the first day of early voting, according to Benton County Clerk's Office.
Outside the Benton County Administration Building the line of early voters wrapped around the structure, and despite the gloomy weather, a lot of people say it was well worth the wait.
“I just thought it was important to exercise my right to vote and I wanted to make sure to show that I was doing that as soon as possible," said early voter Ronny Cerniga.
Even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, voters had their reasons for voting in-person versus absentee.
“I don’t trust any process of voting that doesn’t have me putting my ballot directly in the box. This is so screwed up this year that I don’t trust voting at all," John Allred said.
“I think it’s fine to do absentee but for me, I just want to make sure that it was on record at the courthouse so that when they’re counting votes there’s no question as to how I voted," Cerniga said.
While mask-wearing is encouraged, voters showing up without one cannot be turned away.
“Under the governor's mandate, we encourage people to wear a mask. However, if you decide not to wear a mask while you are voting we cannot infringe on that right," said Channing Barker, Communication Director for Benton County.
Another part of the election process starts is absentee ballot canvassing.
“You compare the absentee ballot request with the voter statement signature," Barker said.
The actual counting of absentee ballots is done on Election Day. The early voting period in Arkansas runs through Nov. 2.
The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27.
9,388 people voted on the first day in Benton County.