BENTONVILLE -- Election officials want voters to study the issues on the November ballot and to use expanded early voting opportunities.
"People should take advantage of the convenience of early voting to avoid long lines on election day," said Kim Dennison, Benton County election coordinator.
Arkansas voters can see sample ballots by using the Voter View feature of the Secretary of State’s Office website at www.sos.arkansas.gov
Benton County has expanded early voting from six locations in 2012 to nine sites this year. Early voting for the Nov. 4 general election begins Oct. 20 and ends Nov. 3. Voters from any part of the county can cast their ballots at the three locations of the County Clerk's Office -- in Bentonville, Rogers and Siloam Springs -- and at Iberia Bank in Bentonville, Riordan Hall in Bella Vista, Intrust Bank in Rogers, the Gravette Civic Center, the Rogers/Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce office in Lowell and the Centerton Firehouse.
In Washington County, the Quorum Court recently approved additional sites for early voting. The justices of the peace voted to add the early voting sites in a Sept. 2 meeting. Early voters from anywhere in the county can cast their ballots at the Rodeo Community Center and Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, the Boys & Girls Club, the county courthouse and Medical Arts Pharmacy in Fayetteville or Prairie Grove City Hall.
Jennifer Price, Washington County election coordinator, told the justices of the peace more than a third of the 71,000 votes cast in the county in the 2012 general election were cast early, up from 24 percent in 2004.
Russ Anzalone, a member of the Benton County Election Commission, said early voting has become an important part of the election process in the county.
"Even in the 2012 election we have something over 40 percent of the people voting in the early voting period," Anzalone said, "There were about 38,600 people who voted early and about 39,000 who voted on election day. There were about 2,000 absentee ballots also. So it was almost 50 percent."
Early voting is even more important when voters have several ballot issues to consider, as they did in 2012 and do again this year, Anzalone said.
"In 2012 we had a lot of issues and people were spending 15 to 20 minutes utilizing a voting machine to read the issues," Anzalone said. "You can't run very many people through at that rate. Granted, they need to take the time to understand what they're voting on, but that information is printed in the newspaper and posted on the county website."
Election officials also will refer voters to the Voter View function on the Secretary of State's website as a source of voter information. Any registered voter can enter their voter registration information and see a sample ballot with all of the races and ballot issues they will be asked to consider on election day.
Benton County Clerk Tena O'Brien said voters without Internet access can call or visit her office and they will be provided a sample ballot. Voters need to study the candidates and understand the issues on the ballot before they go to the polls because poll workers are prohibited from answering any questions about the candidates or ballot measures, O'Brien said.
"There are almost always people who are asking for explanations and, by law, I cannot give an explanation," O'Brien said. "A lot of folks get real frustrated. They want us to tell them if they vote yes,what does that mean or if they vote no what will happen."NW News on 09/29/2014