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First week of early voting in Arkansas fairly smooth; ballot omission among few glitches

by Hunter Field | October 26, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

State Democratic Party officials Thursday highlighted voting problems across Arkansas, while state and county elections officials said the first week of early voting had gone smoothly with just a handful of hiccups.

Former state Rep. Camille Bennett, now the party's director of voter protection, said at a Thursday news conference that the first week of early voting had gone "relatively well," but that the party's voting hotline had received about 100 complaints about confusion over new voter photo ID requirements, candidates being omitted from ballots and voter-roll purges.

Chris Burks, the party's attorney, said the issues were "systemic" across the state.

"The state of Arkansas has not adequately supported the counties to properly administer these elections," Burks said.

A secretary of state's office spokesman and county election commission chairmen across the state said early voting had run smoothly.

The chairmen, who are all Republicans, said they were unaware of some of the issues that Democratic officials mentioned Thursday.

"We've had a few issues around the state as is normal every election, but not a flood of complaints," Chris Powell, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, said. "Overall, things have gone fairly smoothly."

Early voting for the Nov. 6 midterm election began Monday. The election includes state and federal offices, three statewide ballot issues and hundreds of contested local races.

The most prominent issue raised by Democrats was the omission of secretary of state candidate Susan Inman, a Democrat from Little Rock, from the ballot in Garland County, due to a programming error on the voting equipment. About 220 votes were cast before the problem was discovered and corrected Monday morning.

Burks said a complaint over the matter had been filed with the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners. The seven-member board has Martin as a chairman; a Democratic member; and five Republican appointees.

A University of Arkansas at Fort Smith student was told that he couldn't use his student ID to satisfy the state's new voter-ID requirement. The student voted after providing a different form of identification, and the Sebastian County Election Commission informed poll workers that student IDs are acceptable.

Bennett also said some voters who had been marked "inactive" have encountered hurdles at the polls. Voters may be marked inactive by county clerks if they haven't voted in several recent elections, but that shouldn't affect their ability to vote, Bennett said.

"We've got a couple of counties who are interpreting that law differently and questioning inactive voters and requiring them to resubmit applications," Bennett said. "And it's creating some confusion."

The local election commission chairmen in Benton and Lonoke counties -- where Democratic party officials said the problem was occurring -- said they were unaware of the issue.

"We have not turned down one person to vote," said Mickey "Stubby" Stumbaugh, the Lonoke County Election Commission chairman.

Bennett also encouraged voters to review a list of their polling places. Some counties are transitioning from traditional neighborhood polling sites to countywide vote centers. Voters in those counties may vote at any of the centers instead of being bound to their specific precincts on Election Day.

Bennett said the Democratic Party was concerned that voters whose polling places had changed hadn't been adequately notified.

Burks encouraged voters who encounter problems casting standard ballots at the polls to submit provisional ballots to ensure their votes count.

Metro on 10/26/2018

Print Headline: First week of early voting in Arkansas fairly smooth; ballot omission among few glitches

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