Early vote totals in Northeast Arkansas outpace 2014, but don’t top 2016

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 159 views 

Heavy rains Monday (Nov. 5) didn’t stop determined voters in many parts of Northeast Arkansas from casting ballots during early voting. An estimated 14,564 residents voted during early voting, Craighead County Clerk Kade Holliday told Talk Business & Politics. That’s about 26% of the county’s registered voters, and the number who cast votes could surge to 50-55% of registered voters once the final ballots are tallied on election day, he added.

About 1,000 people had voted before noon on Monday alone, Holliday said. Despite the large number, lines to vote were only about five minutes long at their worst, he said. Competitive city council and mayors races in several smaller towns in the county have fueled voter participation. Holliday thinks the early vote totals will be about a 10% or more increase from the last mid-term election in 2014, but he thinks the number of votes cast will be less than the 35,781 that were cast during the 2016 presidential election.

“This is a lot more engagement from the public then we’ve seen in a mid-term,” Holliday said. “It’s a significant increase, and I think it will lead to even more voting in 2020.”

Assessing what is motivating the electorate in the county is difficult, Holliday said. The demographic breakdowns of voters such as seniors versus college age students is about the same as a typical election — there are just more voters, he said.

Rain pelted the area Monday but people still voted in droves, Holliday said, lining up in the parking lot waiting on parking spots. The weather is predicted to be warmer and sunnier Tuesday and that could drive turnout, he added.

In Lawrence County, long lines greeted voters on the last day of early voting. Lawrence County Clerk Tina Stowers told Talk Business & Politics more than 2,000 voters had cast ballots as of Monday and the numbers were expected to rise. Voters were still standing in line when she was interviewed by Talk Business & Politics and she said it might take an hour or two to process each voter in line. The early vote totals are up by about 18% when compared to 2014, but still won’t match the nearly 2,700 early votes cast in 2016.

Competitive mayoral races in Hoxie and Walnut Ridge and the Lawrence County Sheriff’s race are pushing residents to the polls this cycle. There are about 9,100 registered voters in the county meaning the number of early voters in the county is on par with Craighead County.

“We’ve still got people standing out here … this is a really good turnout,” Stowers said.

The Greene County Clerk’s Office reported that 5,499 votes had been cast, but it didn’t include all the votes cast on Monday, a deputy clerk said. When asked if this was busier than normal, she said yes, but that the staff was so busy dealing with voters it would be election day before anyone would be able to calculate the numbers from past elections to compare them to this year’s numbers.