Voter ID Changes Made, Early Voting Set for School Election

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thanks to action by the Arkansas Legislature in the recent session, the state's voters can expect to see some changes when they go to the polls for the upcoming school election. In previous elections, poll workers would ask each voter to state their name and to confirm their address and date of birth. The individual would then be asked if he or she possessed an ID, but was not required to produce one.

However, a new law has been passed, changing this procedure. The law states that voters must show an ID issued by the United States, the State of Arkansas, an accredited postsecondary educational institution in the state or the county clerk. This ID must include the name and picture of the voter, and must not be expired more than four years before the day of election.

This law was previously considered, but was overthrown by an upper court, stating it was unconstitutional. But, since then, the details of the law have been changed in an effort to withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Acceptable forms of identification include an Arkansas driver;s license, a concealed carry handgun license, a U.S. passport, and employee badge or ID document supplied by the State of Arkansas, the federal government, or a postsecondary educational institution located in Arkansas—such as a student ID card. Also accepted are U.S. military ID, public assistance ID card, or a voter ID card issued by the county clerk.

The photo ID must verify the name and appearance of the voter, but is not intended to confirm their address or date of birth. As in past year, poll workers will still ask each voter to confirm their name, address and date of birth. The only change will be the requirement of a picture ID.

Understandably, there are some exemptions to this law. Voters who reside in long-term care or a residential care facility are able to show documentation signed by the administrator confirming the voter resides at the facility.

If a voter fails to provide an acceptable identification document while voting, they will be issued a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are paper ballots filled out by the voter, then sealed within an envelope that is sealed within another envelope. A poll worker and the voter complete the Provisional Voter Eligibility Affirmation portion of the ballot envelope. The voter also completes a statement at the polls stating they are registered to vote.

The envelope is then given to the county election commissioner, who upon examining the answers to the Affirmation portion on the envelope, decides whether the vote counts. The County Commissioner, however, does not open the second sealed envelope containing the voter's ballot. Every voter's ballot is kept private. The voter will be notified if the vote was counted and, if the vote was not counted, the reason behind it.

The provisional ballot will be counted if the voter provides photo identification to the county clerk or to commissioner meeting by noon on the Monday subsequent to the election.

Absentee voters must also provide a copy of photo identification showing their name and picture. The ID must not be expired for more than four years. Absentee ballots without a copy of photo identification will be considered provisional.

Exceptions to absentee requirements include those who reside in residential or long-term care facilities, which can provide a standardized form confirming the voters residency, and military and merchant marine voters, and their families, who are out of the county on active duty are also exceptions to this law.

A new voter registration card may be issued by the county clerk. This card displays the voter's name and photo. However, this card may only be provided to a voter if they can prove they have no other form of photo identification. The voter must also sign an affidavit stating they have no photo identification.

“We never turn anyone down. Everyone has the right to vote,” agreed County Clerk Pat Poole and Election Coordinator Karen Cagle.

Early Voting

Early voting for the upcoming annual school election is set to begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, and will run through 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18. The annual school election will be held the following day, Tuesday, Sept. 19.

There is only one contested school board race in the county for patrons to decide when they go to the polls. Incumbent Hope Burns is facing a challenge from Steve Champ on the Piggott board, while the incumbents in both Rector and Corning are running unopposed.

The candidates for the seat on the Piggott Board will be profiled in next week's edition of the CCTD and here on cctimesdemocrat.com

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