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Kristin HigginsPublic Policy CenterPhone: 501-671-2160Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Kristin Higgins - July 2, 2020
A small percentage of Arkansas' 1.7 million registered voters routinely make their
choices in elections using an absentee ballot, so the process may be unfamiliar to
many people concerned about voting this fall during the pandemic.
Rules for absentee voting vary by state. In Arkansas, voters are eligible for absentee
ballots if one of the following situations is present:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued executive orders earlier this year to allow people to vote
absentee during elections in March, May and June. Questions continued to surface about
whether he would do the same for the Nov. 3 General Election. A lawsuit was filed last month seeking clarification on absentee voting during the pandemic.
In a July 2 press conference, the governor and the secretary of state told reporters
they believed Arkansas' current law would allow for absentee voting by people concerned
about health risks this fall.
"What we’ve done today, and with the action of the secretary of state, who is also
chairman of the State Board of Election Commission, I think that adequately solves
the problem as whether COVID-19 is a good reason for an absentee ballot. That issue
is resolved," Hutchinson said.
He responded to further reporter questions by saying, "They just simply have a concern,
a fear of going to the polling place because of Covid-19. That’s enough of a reason."
UPDATE: Gov. Hutchinson signed an executive order on Aug. 7 recognizing concerns about COVID-19
as being a qualifying reason for using an absentee ballot in the November general
election. Read the executive order.
Voting in-person in Arkansas requires being registered to vote and then you show up
at your voting location on Election Day or during early voting. But when you cast
your vote via absentee ballot, there are more steps involved.
Requests for absentee ballots are valid for one election cycle or one calendar year
depending on the voter.
Arkansas voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that requires most voters
to present valid photographic identification when casting their votes in person or
by absentee ballot.
Voters without photographic identification can still vote. When completing the absentee
ballot, a voter signs their name swearing their identity. This affidavit is considered
proof of identity if they are unable to enclose a copy of their photo ID with their
"When you sign, you are signing an affidavit swearing you who you say you are under
the risk of perjury. An absentee vote is essentially a provisional vote," Secretary
of State John Thurston said at the press conference.
First-time voters have different rules for casting their first ballots, as do people
who live in nursing homes or are members of the military. Click here to read more information about photo ID and voting absentee. Under Amendment 99,
people who do not have valid photo ID can request a free voter ID card from their
Thurston said that in 2016, the last presidential election, about 42,000 Arkansans
voted using absentee ballots. He speculated Thursday that three times the number of
voters may choose to vote absentee this year.
When asked Thursday why not mail applications to all registered voters, Thurston said
it was a funding issue.
"It's a huge price tag," he said, because the application would need to be mailed
in addition to the ballot. Thurston said county clerks or anyone else could send out the applications if they chose to
The secretary of state said they were looking into using CARES Act funding to help offset costs of ordering supplies for
the election this year.
Thurston said he believes voting this November "will look like all of the other elections
in the past with the exception there will be folks wearing masks. There will be gloves.
There will be hand sanitizers, those types of things."
The state is also planning to order disposable stylus pens that voters could use this fall when casting ballots on electronic
voting machines. Thurston said they were ordering enough for every voter.
"When you come to the polling sites technically you should not have to touch a single
thing except that stylus pen. I’m very excited about that," he said.
Oct. 5 - People who aren't already registered to vote in Arkansas have until this
date to register to vote in the Nov. 3 General Election
Oct. 19 - Early voting in the November General Election begins
Oct. 27 - Last day to request an absentee ballot application be mailed to you. Voters
can still request a form for pickup.
Nov. 3 - Election Day. Polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Absentee ballots
must be received by the close of voting hours to be counted.