Commission plans for 2020 elections

Safety at the polls and everyone feeling comfortable enough to vote is the goal of the Drew County Election Committee during a presidential election year complicated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In order to ensure the safety of citizens during the vote, the commission met Tuesday, June 9, to plan.
“How to provide safe and sanitary voting,” said Lyna Gulledge, Drew County Clerk, when asked about the meeting. “We want the voters and the public to understand we do care about them and we are going to provide all that we can.”
Gulledge explained that voting is going to look a little different this year than in the past. 
“It will be different this year due to this lovely COVID pandemic that we are going through,” she stated. “We may end up not having to change anything but we will anyway to let people know we have their safety in mind.”
As of now, all voting sites will be up and operational with contingency plans to shift some voting machines to larger sites that experience a higher volume of voters. In addition, Tillar’s voting site is being studied to determine the best way to allow for social distancing during voting, but according to Gulledge the other sites are fairly large and have enough room to allow for social distancing.
Another measure that will take place, is having masks and gloves available to voters to use, if they choose to do so. If voters choose not to wear the mask or gloves, the area will be sanitized before another person is allowed to vote using that space and machine. Another layer to the plan is to sanitize the area after a predetermined amount of voters wearing masks and gloves come through. 
Each polling site will also be equipped with a hand sanitizer dispensed from a free-standing automatic dispenser.
“One of the plans is to give out gloves to the voters when they arrive, it’s optional,” said Gulledge, “face mask; if they want a face mask. We will have the free standing auto hand sanitizer. We will have one of those at all the voting centers. They will have a plan in place for the social distancing, six feet and how many can be in the center at once. They are looking at the early vote plan and how to adjust it.”
Getting the public to vote and keeping them safe is what the commission is working toward, according to Gulledge, whether that is at a site or through an absentee ballot.
“We want to encourage the public to come out and vote but they can request an absentee ballot, also,” said Gulledge. “They can call the office, we will mail them an application.”
Once the voter has received the absentee voter application, the application needs to be filled out and mailed back. When the ballots are received by the Courthouse, they will then be mailed out to the voters who have requested the absentee ballot and returned the application.
“I don’t want people to not take it seriously and think we aren’t providing them with something,” said Gulledge. “We are trying to make this as easy as we can.”
Gulledge continued by stating this is a learning curve for everyone and asks for patience as recommendations change over time as more is discovered about the virus.
“Everyone is going to have to have patience,” stated Gulledge. “This is something we have never had to encounter, so that has been a learning curve here. It changes from day to day. This could change 5 times by election day. We just don’t know what is going to happen.”
In asking for patience, Gulledge went on to try and ensure voters final plans will be well publicized as the election gets closer. 
“We are going to publicize everything before election so everyone will understand the plan,” state Gulledge. “Voting centers will be open and we will be taking precautions so people will feel comfortable coming in to vote.”
To be qualified to vote an absentee ballot, you must meet one of the following criteria:
You will be unavoidably absent from your polling site on election day, OR
You will be unable to attend your polling site on election day due to illness or physical disability, OR
You are a member of the Uniformed Services, merchant marines or the spouse or a dependent family member and are away from your polling location due to the member’s active duty status, OR
A U.S. citizen whose residence is in Arkansas but is temporarily living outside the territorial limits of the United States.
Deadlines for submission of the application is by close of business the day before the election in person or by a designated person, seven days before the election by mail or by electronic means or by 1:30 on election day by an authorized agent. The authorized agent must file with the County Clerk an affidavit from the administrative head of a hospital or nursing home located in this state verifying that the applicant is a patient of the hospital or long-term care or residential care facility licensed by the state and is thereby unable to vote on the election day at his or her regular polling site.
Deadline for delivery of voted ballot to the county clerk is: 
• In Person: by close of business the day BEFORE the election.
• By Designated Bearer: by 7:30 p.m. ON election day.
• By Mail: received at clerk’s office by 7:30 p.m. ON election day You may NOT fax or email a ballot. UOCAVA voters must vote their ballot by Election Day, and it must be received by their county clerk by 5:00p.m. 10 days after the election.
• By Authorized Agent: by 7:30 p.m. ON election day.
To request an absentee ballot, call the Drew County Clerks office at 870-460-6200. For more information regarding absentee ballots visit: sos.arkansas.gov/elections/voter-information/absentee-voting.

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