In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a political junkie - I like political news, debates, the issues, and even the commercials and mudslinging ( even if I find it tasteless and undignified) Another less partisan area I enjoy is the entire election process as well as election law, and even the act of voting. I caught up with one of the Pulaski County Election Commissioners the other day and he gave me an earful about the entire process.
Each county in Arkansas has an election commission made of three commissioners. One commissioner is from the majority party,one from the minority party, and one is appointed by the State Board of Election Commissioners (from a list submitted by the majority party). In Pulaski the commissioners are Kent Walker, Ozell Snider, and Bill Rush.
Although in the last few years in Arkansas, problems in elections have been blamed on the past circuit/chancery clerk, the Secretary of State and others, in fact they have little to do with the elections. The circuit clerk's role is to maintain the voting rolls so that the election commissioners know who all is an elegible voter. The Secretary of State does some coordination and certifies election results but has little to do with the action election process. The election commission sets the precinct boundried, pick the polling places, and even more daunting of a job- hire all of the poll workers. If you want to learn first hand how an election - be a poll worker. The pay is a little low - $75.00 - and it might be a 15 hour day - but its a great way to see first hand how the process works and is a small, but vital way to directly participate in our democratic process. I helped my parents when I was very young and its actually an exciting job once the polls close. The election commissioners themselves only get $50.00 per election or meeting - so its pretty much a volunteer job.
This election we will have both paper ballots and electronic voting at some polls. You even have the option of typing in your favorite write in candidate electronically. ( Doe that make them a type-in candidate now?)
Some interesting election facts and rules. Most of us have done early voting - early voting starts this year on October 23 and you can always early vote at the main courthouse, and in Pulaski there will be several other locations as well.
Absentee voting: If you registered to vote through the mail - you need to vote in person the first time unless you are in the military. If you registered at the DMV you can vote absentee the first time as well.
I went to vote the other day for school board and forgot my driver's license. I thought they would challenge me, but since I had already voted beofre ( dozens of times) they didn't need an idea. So if you are not a first time voter and you leave your ID at home - you can still vote.
You can assign someone go to get our absentee ballot for you. Similarly by filing an affidavit you can select an authorized agent to assist you vote if you are in the hospital or nursing ome.
Every candidate is allowed to be a a precinct or have an authorized designee be at a precinct as a poll watcher. The poll watcher isn't allwed to speak to any voters but they may challenge a ballot to make the county verify that the person is who they say they are or lives where they say they do. Once challenged the ballow goes in a provisional ballot category and all provisional ballots are reviewed and they are counted if found appropriate. As discussed earlier, merely not having a ID is not a valid reason to successfully challenge a vote.
The polls close at 7:30 P.M. but if you are still in line you can still vote. The votes are counted, and depending on the number of problems with the software, the machines, and other issues, official results are posted at the courthouse. Results are released within hours usually depending on the number of machine problems but recently the latest results still came in at 2:00 A.M.
Ten days after the election absentee ballots are counted and then official results are certified and sent to the Secretary of State's Office. Before certification of results any candidate may formally demand a recound. You have to pay for a recount before its done and the fee is a quarter a vote for a maximum of $2500.00. If you win because of the recount, you get your money back.
Up to twenty days after the election you can file in circuit court to contest the certificate of nomination or certificate of election. These are very very hard to win and usually are frivolous from what I have seen.
Who pays for the elections? We do of course but for example, school districts pay the election commission for their own, the State Board of Election Commissioners pays for the primaries and certain state wide races, the cities pay for any special election.
There is all sorts of great election information available at the Secretary of State's website.
After my lunch with the election commissioner - he had a great point - anyone who takes issue with the way the county runs its elections should take off a day, get paid $75.00 and be a pollworker. Running an election is extremely complicated, expensive somewhat tedious, no glory is involved and in general is an immense amount of work. I could be wrong but I think the jail tax election - just one issue - cost Pulaski County $90,000.
I wanted to be a poll worker, I need the money. But as a government employee I'm probably ineligible. The restrictions are found in the Arkansas Constitution Art. 3 §10 and Ark. Code Ann. § 7-4-109. If you are interested as well here the process and requirements and here is the application form.
After my discussion with the elction commission I was very impressed what all goes into the process and how much things are improving. With the help of federal money, the voting machines will be much more accurate which in turn will make the whole voting effort much more efficient and increase confidence in the outcome.
I heard a great speech the other day at toastmasters about voting in iraqu. The AO of the local 39th Infantry Unit spoke about watching the Iraquis line up to vote and how a morter shell was fired by the insurgents, almost hitting the precinct. the iraqies instinctively hit the ground and no one was hurt. Instead of running away after the explosion, in a quick and orderly fashion they reassembled their line. if they are willing to die for the right to vote, and our troops are willing to die to give them that right -- we here in Arkansas should at least be willing to get out of bed a little early and go hit the polls. To see where your voting precinct is: go here
or call 340-VoteHere is a list of all the candidates ( Pulaski County only )