Washington County election officials approve voting locations, ballot styles for November election

No action taken on language requests

Julie Hall, staff assistant, tests a ballot marking machine, Thursday, January 23, 2020 at the Benton County Clerk's Office in Rogers.
Julie Hall, staff assistant, tests a ballot marking machine, Thursday, January 23, 2020 at the Benton County Clerk's Office in Rogers.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Washington County Election Commission on Wednesday approved the ballot styles for the Nov. 8 general election and a list of early voting locations and election day vote centers.

The information will be posted on the Washington County website under the Election Commission and on votewashco.com, election director Jennifer Price said.

The commission heard requests Wednesday that election information be provided in multiple languages but took no action on the matter.

Clint Schnekloth, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, said his congregation has done voter registration and education work in the Marshallese community and asked the commission to provide information in Marshallese.

Some of the older Marshallese residents in the area aren't citizens, having come to the United States to work under a special status provided to residents of the Marshall Islands. The children of those residents who were born here are citizens and are eligible to vote, he said. Schnekloth said providing material in Marshallese will help parents who may not speak English assist their children in learning how to register and vote.

Price said she has worked closely with Springdale High School to recruit student poll workers and the group always includes Marshallese students. Election Commission member Max Deitchler told Schnekloth to encourage anyone interested in becoming a poll worker or translator to contact Price for information.

Monique Jones, the Democratic Party candidate for the District 18 seat in the state House of Representatives, made a similar request election material be translated into Spanish. Jones said recent census data show minorities make up about 24% of the population of District 18 and election information should be available in languages other than English.

Jones also suggested the commission consider increasing the pay for bilingual poll workers.

Also Wednesday, Price told the commission that names of write-in candidates will only be listed in the notice of elections posted at polling locations.

The Election Commission has discussed the obstacles facing write-in candidates at several recent meetings. Jim Estes, one commission member, argued the requirements imposed by the state were so onerous anyone who met them deserved to be listed on the ballot. Write-in candidates must file with the secretary of state's office and provide notice to the county election commissions in every county in which they are a candidate. For candidates for governor or other statewide offices, that means providing notice to all 75 Arkansas counties.

"They've done all the filing, just like candidates of the more recognized political parties," Estes said. "Why can't we put them on the ballot?"

"The law makes it difficult for people to be on the ballot," Deitchler said during the discussion, noting laws are written and approved largely by legislators from the two major political parties.

Price said state law limits what can be placed on ballots and only allows for a blank space for write-in candidates who meet all of the filing requirements. Votes for candidates who don't meet the filing requirements aren't counted.

Price had proposed a partial solution to Estes' concerns by having a list of write-in candidates posted on the electronic voting machines used by the county. The county is required by law to post the names of all candidates in a notice of election at every polling location. Price said she had asked the state for guidance on whether the names of write-in candidates could be in a separate list posted on every voting machine.

Deitchler said he worried posting some candidates' names on the voting machines could be construed as encouraging people to vote for those candidates.

Price said she'd received a reply from the state Board of Election Commissioners that posting the write-in candidates' names on the voting machines wouldn't be permitted.

Election information

Information on the Nov. 8 general election — including how to check voter registration status, candidate information and how to become a poll worker — can be found online at votewashco.com or on Washington County’s website washingtoncountyar.gov by selecting Election Commission under the Government tab.

Source: Washington County Election Commission


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