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FAYETTEVILLE -- The two Washington County Clerk candidates discussed their differing plans on improving the voting process and the office in general at Tuesday's forum at the public library.

The county clerk is the official bookkeeper of county government. Duties include handling voter registration, recording and issuing marriage licenses and some certificates, and keeping records for the Quorum Court, equalization board and circuit probate court.

What does the County Clerk do?

The Washington County Clerk is the official bookkeeper of the county government. Some responsibilities of the office include:

Elections & Voting: responsible for voter registration, as well as absentee and early voting at the Courthouse.

Licenses & Certificates: issue marriage licenses, DBA certificates, and ministers’ certificates of record. They also file and maintain Nurses’ and Physicians’ credentials and licenses, and we keep a record of all fictitious business names in the county.

Court Secretary: serve as the clerk for the County Court and Circuit Court Probate Division and as secretary to the Equalization Board.

Source: www.co.washington.ar.us

Becky Lewallen
Emily Sledge

Candidate Emily Sledge, a Democrat, said the office needs to work harder to get people registered to vote by being more active in the community whereas Republican candidate Becky Lewallen said the bigger issue is getting people to the polls and is focused on the voting experience.

"I want to see us out there engaging with our voters," Sledge said.

Lewallen is running for her fourth term as clerk and has worked in the office for 16 years.

Lewallen bought electronic poll books during her first year in office in 2013. This allows voters to show up at any location in the county. It also shortened the upload process after voting, which makes posting the vote credit more timely and eliminates many errors, she said.

She recently purchased a ballot-on-demand printing system for upcoming elections to save on printing costs and to not waste paper, she said. This year, she also asked the election commission to look into a mobile voting unit for 2020. They are working on a few pop-up locations in the county for this election as a trial run, she said.

"The voting experience is very important to me," Lewallen said. "I believe that bringing the poll to the voter rather than making the voter go to the poll would be so helpful, bringing it to retirement communities, campuses, anywhere where there is a large number of voters in a concentrated area."

Sledge acknowledged her opponent's progressive moves during her time in office but said she would like to push forward even more. She has a master's degree in operations management and works as a product manager for Tyson Foods.

"I really feel that my background in operations management can offer a fresh perspective in the office," Sledge said. "I'm not intimidated by this role or by the breadth of the responsibilities in it."

Sledge wants to add credit card payments as an option in the clerk's office, add a Spanish language voter registration form online and improve the overall online accessibility, she said.

She also wants to address online security, she said, by ensuring the clerk's office has the most updated and efficient IT security system protecting the voting process and records.

If elected, she would host more voter registration drives through the office and work with students to get them more engaged in civic opportunities, Sledge said. She would also like to see mobile voting locations in areas of low voter turnout to hopefully bolster voting, she said.

Sledge defined success in the role of county clerk would be identifying ways to streamline the office within the first three months in office and put together a plan to implement the plans under budget.

Lewallen said, "Success is having a happy public. It's you doing your part to make sure the processes are easy and we are looking at new technology, new ideas and moving forward."

NW News on 09/05/2018

Print Headline: Washington County Clerk Candidates talk voting, other processes

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