Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TOP STORY >>Big early-voting turnout

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Early voting started for the first time Monday in Cabot. Registered Lonoke County voters can cast
their ballots early for the November general election at the Community Bank building
downtown next to city hall. The last day for voters to cast theirs early is Monday, Nov. 6.

Early voting has also started at the Lonoke County Courthouse, where voters have been
casting their ballots early for years. Several hundred voters have cast their ballots
at both locations, poll workers said. The polls in Cabot will be open from 10
a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4.
Voters can cast their ballot at the Lonoke County Courthouse from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
weekdays through Nov. 3; from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4; and from
8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6.

“People have always wanted one, and now we have it,” Carolyn Miller, a Cabot election official said, referring to the new early-voting location. “It’s handy to have it in Cabot.” In the past, voters living in Cabot and surrounding
areas have had to drive to the Lonoke County Courthouse to vote in the early elections. In most counties, the county clerk’s office serves as the early voting site, but the law also permits county boards of election commissioners to offer additional sites outside the courthouse.

Cabot resident Wade Ahart, who usually casts his vote in the early elections, said driving to Lonoke to vote wasn’t convenient.
“It’s much more convenient now in Cabot,” Ahart, who lives about a mile from the voting site, said. “I’ll be sending my wife to early vote. She never does it because it wasn’t convenient.” The first day of early voting had 94 voters going to the Cabot location to cast their electronic ballot. “We’ve done more here than we would have in Lonoke,” Martha Gatley, polling site sheriff, said.

This is also the first time Cabot area voters have used the ES&S iVotronic electronic, touch-screen voting system for a general election. According to Carolyn Sanders, an election official for Cabot, voters had a choice of using a paper or electronic ballot at the last election, but this year, voters do not have a choice. Casting a ballot with the electronic system is easy.

After providing identification and signing the precinct voter registration list, an election official directs the voter to a voting machine and activates the electronic ballot. Voters then use their fingertip to touch the names of the candidates and issues they would like to select; they review their choices and press the vote button.

“It’s interesting,” Susan Moore of Cabot said after casting her vote. This was the first time Moore and her husband Richard used the electronic ballot. Any qualified voter in Arkansas can opt to vote early, beginning 15 days before any election.
As of July, according to the secretary of state’s website, there are 32,120 registered voters in Lonoke County, a slight decrease from 2004’s 33,281 registered voters.