Arkansas is one of 32 states allowing registered voters to cast a ballot prior to Election Day without an excuse or justification. That early voting period starts today, Monday, October 22, 2012.
Early voting is just one way Arkansans can make sure their opinions are heard this election, so it's important that voters understand all the options on how and when to vote, in addition to all the things they will be asked to vote on when they step into the ballot box.
To avoid having to wait in long lines on election day, voters can participate in early voting. Anyone may participate in early voting for any reason in the state of Arkansas. During early voting, polls will be open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Monday before the election, November 5th, early voting will end at 5 p.m. Early voting typically takes place at the county clerk's office, however, in counties with off-site early voting (that which takes place at a location other than the county clerk's office), local newspapers will publish the designated sites.
However, if you can't make it out to the polls during early voting, you may still vote on election day. Election day is Tuesday, November 6th. Polls will be open throughout the state from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. If you are in line at the time the poll closes, you may still vote. To vote on election day you must vote at your polling site, which is assigned by your county election commission. To find your location online, visit www.voterview.org.
For those voters who will be "unavoidably absent" from their polling site on Election Day, or who will be unable to attend their polling site due to illness or physical disability, they may cast absentee ballots. To receive an absentee ballot, you must request an absentee ballot through your county clerk's office.
Once voters determine when and where they will need to go to cast their ballots, they'll also need to make sure they know how they wish to vote, as voters are only permitted five minutes to make their selections in the ballot box.
In addition to the Presidential race, county officials are on the ballot, and due to redistricting all 135 seats in the Arkansas General Assembly have been up for election. Of those, 62 are uncontested; 73 seats – 18 in the Senate and 55 in the House of Representatives – are contested.
Arkansans will also have to decide on an initiated act to allow the use of medical marijuana and two constitutional amendments proposed by the General Assembly.
Issue #1 is titled "An amendment to provide additional funding for state highways, county roads, city streets, bridges, and other surface transportation." It calls for a temporary state sales tax increase for highway funding. If passed, it will increase the state sales tax by 1/2 cent over the next 10 years. It is expected to generate an additional $1.1 billion for highway funding in order to connect all four corners of the state with four lane highways. Cities would receive 15% of the revenue generated and counties would also receive 15% of the funds to be directed to road improvements. The ballot measure also includes a permanent provision to direct a penny from the current fuel tax to the State Aid Street Fund. The State Aid Street Fund is distributed to cities across the state to assist in road construction and maintenance.
Issue #2 is titled "An amendment concerning municipal and county financing of sales tax anticipated revenue bond projects, unfunded liabilities of closed local police and fire pension plans, and real and tangible personal property." This issue would establish redevelopment districts in the state by allowing cities to issue sales tax anticipated revenue bonds called STAR bonds. It also allows cities to issue bonds to pay off unfunded liabilities for pension systems of firefighters and police.
These two issues are ones the 88th General Assembly felt must be decided by the people of Arkansas. We encourage all Arkansans to study the implications of both before heading to the polls.
To find out more, voters can visit www.VoteNaturally.org, where they will find sample ballots that can help them better prepare themselves for the choices they will make on election day.