Election Day voting proceeded with few problems Tuesday morning, as voters went to the polls to determine a plethora of local, county, state and federal offices and ballot questions.
Polls opened in Arkansas at 7:30 a.m. today and will remain open until 7:30 p.m. Secretary of State John Thurston earlier predicted about 51% of Arkansas' registered voters would cast ballots in this election, more than 916,600 in all. By Monday afternoon, his office said 454,112 ballots had been cast as early or absentee votes.
Dana Caler, the election administrator for the Benton County Clerk's Office, said there had been no major problems Tuesday morning.
She said the office is fielding numerous calls from voters who have built new homes, requiring the clerk's office to map their new addresses and find their ballots to determine their precincts.
She encouraged people to update their addresses if they build new homes so the addresses will be corrected before the next Election Day.
Melody Kwok, a spokeswoman for Benton County, said the county has 181,574 registered voters, and 56,523, or 31%, early voted. Caler said 36% of registered voters had voted by 11 a.m. Tuesday, including those early votes.
Kim Dennison, election coordinator for the county's election commission, said there was no power at the Gravette Civic Center, but that did not impact voting because the machines have battery backup.
"It was dark in the room, but they were still able to process people and there was light from the machines," she said. "We got through the morning rush and things have slowed down, but we expect it to pick back up when people get off work."
A steady stream of people came to Bentonville Church of Christ's Activity Center to vote. Sarah Dokken was one of them.
"I believe it's an important right for all citizens," she said. "I believe there are unique issues related to women's rights, and it's important for our voices to be heard."
Johnny Haney, another voter, said he had no problems casting his ballot. He did hear comments from others about needing more machines, but Haney said there were no lines when he voted.
"It's important to vote," Haney said. "It's important to my pocketbook."
Haney said he believed the partisan times in the country would bring out more voters, and he's saddened that more people don't turn out and vote.
John Marshall voted at Southside Church of Christ in Rogers. Marshall said he believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. He described himself as a conservative voter who has in the past voted for some Democrats. Marshall said he's definitely now a Republican voter.
Sandy Lee Shirley also voted at Southside Church. She said voting is the procedure by which we choose our leaders.
"I want to be part of the community and a responsible citizen," she said.
In Washington County, there were short waits to vote at some precincts Tuesday morning but no major problems, according to Jennifer Price, executive director of the Washington County Election Commission.
"We expected a busy day today. Midterm elections, you don't always see as many early voters as you do on Election Day, so it is pretty busy for us," Price said.
Problems were limited to the usual things, getting voting equipment and computers up and going for the day, Price said.
Sam Townsend voted in Greenland at the Community Center Tuesday morning and said it took less than five minutes for him to vote.
"At first I was kind of like 'what do I do next,' and she came over and showed me, and I hit that button and everything went nice and smooth," Townsend said. "I already had my mind made up who I was going to vote for, so it didn't take no time at all."
Townsend said he typically waits to vote on Election Day because he enjoys the community aspect of going to the local polling place and voting with others.
"Most people here, you can talk to them," Townsend said. "Especially right here in Greenland, they're nice and friendly and everything. And there ain't no big, long lines."
In West Fork there were 50 to 75 cars and trucks at the Community Center about 8:30 a.m., and the wait was a little longer than in Greenland, perhaps 15 minutes. The end of the line was outside the door by a few feet.
Wes Vaughn said he had stopped in to vote on the way to an appointment because he also likes voting on Election Day.
"Of course I am, always do," Vaughn said as he hurried toward the building after parking.
Vaughn said he was expecting the process to go smoothly.
"This is a good voting community, a lot of people turn out," Vaughn said.
Barbara Patchen recently moved to the area and was voting for the first time at West Fork.
"In and out, easy to work with. I had no issues," Patchen said. "I'm a new resident of West Fork -- I just filled out the new voter registration -- so I was a little nervous on the address change but no issues."
A caller told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette early Tuesday that she believed someone was campaigning for a state legislative candidate too close to the door of the polling place at the Johnson Church of Christ. Price said she had not heard that complaint, but said when a complaint is lodged, the election commission sends out rovers to check.
"I think what happens is a lot of people think 100 feet is a lot bigger, so in their minds, and mine, too, they think that must be a really long space," Price said. "But it's actually not that long of a distance from the door. So any of those complaints that we've received we have sent rovers out to look; we have sent our poll supervisors out to make sure that that is not occurring."
Arkansas voters are casting ballots to choose winners in all seven Constitutional state offices, including governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor. They'll also elect four people to represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives for two years and choose a U.S. Senator for the next six years. All 135 seats in the state's General Assembly are up for election as well. Voters will decide on county offices, municipal races, some non-partisan judicial runoffs -- including a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court -- and some school board seats. A number of ballot questions, including one that would, if passed, legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas, will also be decided.
For more information about the local candidates and how to vote, visit www.nwavote.com.
Tracy Neal and Ron Wood contributed to this story.