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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 -- Absentee ballots for the November general election should start arriving in the mail this week, an election official said.

More than 15,000 absentee ballot applications have been processed in Benton and Washington counties, according to the county clerks' offices.

"What we have ready to go will go out today," Benton County Clerk Betsy Harrell said Friday morning. "We're continually processing and will be sending some out every day."

The Benton County Clerk's Office had processed 8,212 absentee ballot applications by Friday morning, said Dana Caler, county clerk elections administrator/voter supervisor. There are about 1,000 applications waiting to be processed she said.

Caler said some residents could receive their ballots by today, but more will see them as the week goes along.

Benton County has 164,943 registered voters as of Friday.

In Washington County, 6,945 absentee ballot applications were processed as of Friday morning, said Jamie Williams, deputy clerk.

There were 137,310 registered voters Friday in Washington County, Williams said.

The Washington County Clerk's Office will send out about 5,800 absentee ballots between Friday and today, Williams said.

More voting by absentee ballot is expected in the November general election than in previous general 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 he's registered to vote, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State website.

Voters may download the application from the county or Secretary of State websites.

The application can be submitted by fax, email, in person or mail, said Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Election Commission.

"For voters who are receiving their ballots (this) week, the mail is an option," Price said.

Voters can also return their 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.

Washington County voters also will have the option to return their absentee ballot every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in October at the County Courthouse, Price said. The Clerk's Office will offer curbside return, and voters won't have to get out of their vehicles to return their absentee ballots.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail or fax is Oct. 27, although a voter can pick up an absentee ballot in person until Nov. 2, the day before the election.

All absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. Nov. 3 to be counted, Arkansas 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."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order earlier this month allowing election officials to begin preparing absentee ballots for counting up to 15 days before the general election. The rule for preparing absentee ballots was seven days before the election prior to Hutchinson's order, said Kim Dennison, Benton County election coordinator.

The election includes federal, state, county, and municipal races and ballot questions. Some ballots will contain school board, community college and judicial runoff races as well as local ballot questions.

More News

Voting information

County Clerk’s Offices

Benton County: (479) 271-1013

Washington County: (479) 444-1711

Secretary of State

Voting information can also be found at www.sos.arkansas.gov

Source: Benton County, Washington County

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

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