UPDATE: Special precautions taken for onsite voting as absentee ballot requests soar

UPDATE 

Baxter County and Circuit Clerk Canda Reese reported Thursday her office has now processed 2,238 requests for absentee ballots, as well as 33 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) requests.

ORIGINAL STORY

As requests for absentee ballots for the November General Election shatter records, state and local officials have been making special preparations for onsite voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early voting in Arkansas kicks off Monday for a two-week period leading up to the Nov. 3 General Election.

In Baxter County, as KTLO, Classic Hits and The Boot news reported in late August, First United Methodist Church, located at 605 West Sixth Street in Mountain Home, will serve as a new site for early voting. The new site replaces the Baxter County Courthouse where social distancing could not be accomplished.

In addition to First United Methodist Church, Twin Lakes Plaza, located at 769 Business Highway 62, and the Baxter County Election Commission office, located at 213 East Fifth Street, will serve as early voting locations.

Baxter County and Circuit Clerk Canda Reese says the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided funding to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office to procure PPE in bulk for use during early voting and election day. The procured equipment has been distributed across the state.

Photo: Baxter County received over two-and-a-half pallets of PPE for onsite voting needs.

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Reese says the pandemic is impacting preparation for early voting and election day in another way.

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As officials make their preparations for voting, Reese is asking voters to also make their preparations.

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Reese also requested law enforcement presence at each voting location for the first time.

As preparations continue for the onsite early voting to begin Monday, county clerks and their staffs are being kept busy processing requests for absentee ballots.

Last week, Reese reported having received in excess of 1,700 requests. With the presidential election in 2016, Reese says just 687 absentee ballots were cast. As of Wednesday, Marion County and Circuit Clerk Dawn Moffet reported having received 690 requests. In 2016, Marion County had 349 returned absentee ballots. In Fulton County, County and Circuit Clerk Vickie Bishop says her office has received 285 requests. In 2016, 156 voters cast absentee ballots.

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