BENTONVILLE -- Local election officials are testing voting machines and preparing themselves for the March 1 primary election.
Benton County has unveiled a new feature on its website that offers voters the location of early voting sites and new vote centers that will be open for the first time on election day. Washington County is a small step ahead, having used vote centers in two elections last fall, but much of the work remains the same.
• Benton County voters can obtain election information from the county’s website at www.bentoncountyar.…
• Washington County voters can obtain election information from the county’s website at www.co.washington.a…
Source: Staff report
"We're going down the same road," Jennifer Price, Washington County election coordinator, said Friday. "For both us and Benton County, we're both doing vote centers and that changes a lot of things."
Washington County's website offers voters the chance to see all of the county's ballots, Price said. The ballots are listed under the Election Commission section of the website. The county clerk section of the website also links local voters to the VoterView feature of the secretary of state's office where voters can check their voter registration information online.
Benton County's online voter information has been revised and updated by the county's Information Technology Department, said County Clerk Tena O'Brien.
"We're thrilled at the ease of use and the information it provides," O'Brien said.
The Benton County website provides a list of the early voting locations and allows voters to find vote center locations in any city in the county, O'Brien said. With vote centers, voters can cast their ballots at any center instead of being limited to a single polling place.
"It lists all of them," O'Brien said. "If you want to vote early, it will show you those sites. With the vote centers on election day it doesn't matter where you reside, you will be able to vote in any vote center."
Both counties were working to get their electronic voting machines ready for use in the early voting period -- which begins Feb. 16 and ends Feb. 29 -- and for use in the March 1 election day voting.
Kim Dennison, Benton County election coordinator, said the county has 312 electronic voting machines. The county will use 48 for early voting and send out 236 on election day, leaving 28 in reserve. State law doesn't allow machines used in early voting to be used on election day, Dennison said. The "logic and accuracy" testing of the machines began Friday and will take several days to complete, Dennison said.
"What we do is we put votes in them to make sure everything is tallying correctly," Dennison said. "Then we read those results into our election night reporting system to be sure it all comes out right. With no problems it could take a full week because of the setup and tear-down process for the machines."
Washington County will begin to test its machines Monday, Price said. The county's experience with vote centers in the September school elections and a September special election in Fayetteville provided valuable experience as the county shifts to vote centers for all elections, she said.
"The Fayetteville special election with 10,000 votes was a good test," Price said. "We had really positive feedback from that election that helped us. We're looking forward to it."
The deadline to register to vote in the March 1 primary is Monday. Voters can register in person at the county clerk's office that day or have their application postmarked or received by the secretary of state' office by that date, O'Brien said.
O'Brien has concerns about voters who might cast absentee ballots being aware of the change in the primary election date to March 1 instead of a date in May. The county has received fewer requests for absentee ballots so far this year -- 211 through Jan. 27 compared to a total of 413 for the 2012 presidential primary, she said. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is seven days before the election.
"If people are overseas or in the military, I don't know that those folks are aware of the different date," O'Brien said.
NW News on 01/31/2016