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story.lead_photo.caption Absentee ballots come out of a printer on Wednesday Sept. 16 2020 at the Benton County Clerk's Office. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

BENTONVILLE -- Voters in Benton and Washington counties can drop off absentee ballots every Saturday this month, officials said.

Staff from the Benton County Clerk's Office will be at the county administration building at 215 E. Central Ave. in downtown Bentonville from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to accept absentee ballots. Voters will drive up, park in a parking spot and call (479) 271-1013. An employee will meet them, according to Channing Barker, county communications director.

"Even if it's busy on Saturday, it should go pretty quickly," Benton County Clerk Betsy Harrell said. "Turning in your own ballot is a quick process. We just check ID and take the ballot."

Designated bearers will take a little longer because they have some documentation to complete, but it's not a long process, Harrell said. A designated bearer is someone a voter chooses to pick up or deliver the absentee application or ballot, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State website.

Washington County voters will have the option to return absentee ballots from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the County Courthouse at 212 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville, said Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Election Commission. The clerk's office will offer curbside service, and voters won't have to get out of their vehicles.

Benton County processed 10,862 absentee ballot applications and mailed 10,728 ballots as of Wednesday, Deputy Clerk Samantha Hufford said. The county had 166,265 registered voters Wednesday. The deadline to register is Monday.

In Washington County, 8,606 absentee ballot applications were processed and 7,277 ballots mailed as of Wednesday, Deputy Clerk Jamie Williams said. Washington County had 137,951 registered voters Wednesday.

"We are sending out a batch a week, and this week's batch should go out Friday," Williams said.

More voting by absentee ballot is expected in the November general election than in previous elections because of covid-19. Guidelines to prevent the disease's spread include avoiding public gatherings such as a vote center.

Some states send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter in a county or state. Arkansas uses an absentee ballot system. A voter may request an absentee ballot application by contacting the county clerk in the county where the voter is registered, according to the Secretary of State website. Voters may download the application from the county websites.

The application can be submitted by fax, email, in person or mail, Price said.

Voters can also return an absentee ballot in person to the county clerk's office. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in both counties. Voters must show identification to return an absentee ballot in person. The deadline to return an absentee ballot in person is Nov. 2, Price said.

All absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. Nov. 3 to be counted, Secretary of State John Thurston said.

Thurston said June 25 state law provides sufficient latitude for voters concerned about the coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the November general election. The law allows a voter to request a ballot if he will be "unavoidably absent from his or her voting place on the day of the election."

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Dates to remember

Monday: Voter registration deadline for the Nov. 3 general election.

Oct. 19: Early voting begins.

Oct 27: Final day to request an absentee ballot be mailed.

Oct. 30: Final day to transfer registration within the state of Arkansas.

Nov. 2: Final day to request an absentee ballot in person.

Nov. 3: Election day

Source: Benton County Clerk’s Office

Mike Jones may be reached by email at [email protected]

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