Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Fish Story Contest 🎣 Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Puzzles Crime Distribution Locations Obits

Northwest Arkansas workers, machines vanquish election fears

by Doug Thompson | October 30, 2016 at 1:00 a.m.
Bryan Sharp (left) of Greenland answers questions for poll worker Jackie Beall of West Fork before early voting with electronic voting machines Saturday in the quorum courtroom in the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville. Early voting continues through Nov. 7.

Election officials solved worker and equipment shortages before voting began in Northwest Arkansas with a recruiting drive for poll workers and access to some new and some borrowed voting machines.

Photo by Andy Shupe
Jennifer Sharpshair (left), a deputy county clerk, helps Jack and Kathy Brooks of Farmington with early voting with a paper ballot Saturday in the clerk’s office in the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville. Residents who prefer voting via a paper ballot may do so in the clerk’s office.
Photo by Ben Goff
Maddie Marler, 13, and Benjamin Marler, 11, watch as their mom Rachel Marler of Rogers votes Saturday during early voting at the Benton County Clerk’s office in the Benton County Administration Building in downtown Bentonville.

A shortage of bilingual, Spanish-speaking poll workers and volunteers remains, both election officials and candidates said.

Where to early vote

Washington County

• County Clerk’s Office, 280 N. College Ave., Fayetteville: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (paper ballots only)

• Quorum Courtroom, main floor, 280 N. College Ave., Fayetteville: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Arvest Ballpark, 3000 S. 56th St., Springdale: Monday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Boys & Girls Club, 560 N. Rupple Road, Fayetteville: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Medical Arts Pharmacy, 2515 E. Huntsville Road, Fayetteville: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Prairie Grove City Hall, 955 E. Douglas St., Suite 4: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Rodeo Community Center, 1423 E. Emma St., Springdale: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Benton County

• County Clerk’s Office, 215 E. Central Ave., Suite 217. Bentonville: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• County Clerk’s Office, 1428 W. Walnut St., Rogers: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• County Clerk’s Office, 707 S. Lincoln St., Siloam Springs: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• IBeria Bank, 706 S. Walton Blvd., Bentonville: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Riordan Hall, 3 Riordan Road, Bella Vista: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Intrust Bank, 3300 Market, Suite 130, Rogers: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Gravette Civic Center, 401 S.E. Charlotte St., Gravette: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Rogers/Lowell Chamber of Commerce, 506 Enterprise Drive, Lowell: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Centerton Fire House, 755 W. Centerton Blvd., Centerton: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

• NEBCO Community Building, 17823 Marshall St., Garfield: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sources: Staff report

Benton County Election Commission staff members warned in August they were short about 90 poll workers of the 354 needed. Public notice, stories by news outlets, word of mouth and requests for help posted in public spaces filled that gap, said Kim Dennison, county election coordinator.

"The newspapers and the TV stations helped, and we put fliers in city halls," Dennison said. "We did everything we could to get the word out and had 150 new poll workers sign up."

It was a good thing they did, she said, with what appears to be a record turnout in the works.

"Busy is the only word for it," she said.

Local races such as those for county judge and sheriff are boosting voter interest in addition to the high-interest presidential race, Dennison said. Early voting began on Oct. 24.

"We've strongly encouraged early voting because that will reduce the lines on Election Day," she said. Jennifer Price, Dennison's Washington County counterpart, echoed the comment.

On Saturday, 1,113 people voted in Washington County, Price said. Numbers for Benton County on Saturday weren't available.

The biggest inconvenience for voters who have had a problem, according to Dennison, is when a voter has had a recent address change.

"I can't stress enough that if you've had an address change, check with the county clerk before you vote to make sure it's been recorded," she said. Fixing the records at the polls can be done, but it is time consuming for the voter.

Washington County was one of 11 picked by the Secretary of State's Office to test a new model of voting machine, Price said. Not only did the new machines help Washington County, but they partially replaced some of the older models that were then sent to Benton County to relieve a shortage.

Machines from Washington, Sebastian, Garland and other counties made it to Benton County, according to Dennison.

The new model machines are working well and clearly address concerns raised by earlier generations of electronic voting devices, Price said.

"When you get through voting, it prints out a paper copy of your ballot for you to check," Price said. "If something's wrong on it, you can alert a poll worker. We have a procedure to spoil that ballot and allow you to cast a correct one."

The printout feature relieves concerns often expressed by voters about whether digital voting machines record votes correctly, she said.

Voting machines, new or old, are proving a challenge for voters who don't speak English well, said Irvin Camacho, a Democrat running for the state House of Representatives. Camacho is running against Jeff Williams, a Republican, in Springdale's District 89 state House election.

Camacho's campaign is built around appealing to all ethnic groups while bringing more Spanish speakers to the polls. He praised poll workers during early voting for their preparation and willingness to help Spanish speakers, but said he found an unexpected problem when poll workers try to help navigate technology.

"A lot of Spanish voters who don't speak English or speak it well are also not comfortable using machines," Camacho said. "When you have a tech barrier and a language barrier too, it makes it that much harder to solve the technical barrier."

In hindsight, his campaign and other parties interested in getting more Spanish speakers to vote should have done more to encourage bilingual people to volunteer. All in all, though, "I'm super happy with the efforts being made by the poll workers," Camacho said.

Camacho's observation surprised neither Price nor Dennison.

"We've been trying since 2012 to recruit bilingual poll workers and have never had any luck," Price said. "We get Springdale High School students who are ESL (English as a Second Language) students to translate on Election Day, but that doesn't help with early voting. They can't take off school for two weeks to help us out."

State law also limits the number of voters an outside group such as an activist group, which might have an interest in an election result, can help, she said.

Minority voters have had no difficulties getting their early votes cast, said D'Andre Jones of Fayetteville, chairman of the Fayetteville Civil Rights Commission. This has been true despite a much higher turnout than normal, he said.

"We haven't received any complaints," Jones said. "Turnout has been great, both overall and among minorities."

NW News on 10/30/2016

Print Headline: Workers, machines vanquish election fears


Sponsor Content