From the beautiful hallways of your historic state Capitol, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
I am optimistic that this year’s election will be historic, and it will remembered for good reasons.
First of all, I believe that voter turnout will go up this year. All the early signs indicate that people are engaged and committed to making their voices heard, even if that means standing in a long line at the polling station.
Four years ago, voter turnout in Arkansas was almost 65 percent. More than 1.1 million Arkansans cast a vote in the November, 2016, election for president.
The best turnout in our lifetimes was in 1992, when Governor Bill Clinton was first elected president and 72 percent of Arkansas voters went to the polls.
One driver of higher turnout is the increased popularity of early voting. The number of people voting early has steadily increased, from 40 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in 2012 to 55 percent in 2016.
Judging by the long lines at early voting locations, people are committed this year, even if it means standing in a long line.
County clerks have been working overtime to prepare for the enormous increase in absentee ballots they’ll process this year.
If you are voting absentee, you should have put your ballot in the mail Tuesday, October 27, a week before election day.
Otherwise, you can bring it in personally to the county clerk’s office, but don’t wait until election day. If you personally bring in your absentee ballot, the deadline is the close of business on Monday, November 2, the day before the election.
If you’re in the hospital, a nursing home or a long-term care facility, you can designate an authorized person to take you ballot to the clerk’s office. That designated bearer can return ballots for only two voters.
Be sure to sign your ballot clearly, and fill out all the spaces where information is requested.
If you vote in person, be sure to bring an up-to-date photo ID.
If you are challenged because your photo ID is not valid, or for any other reason, you may still cast a provisional ballot. For example, poll workers will look up your name and if you requested an absentee ballot, they will ask you to fill out a provisional ballot.
If you have moved, you may have to fill out a change of address form before filling out a provisional ballot.
Here is a very useful website where you can look up your precinct, and make sure the county clerk has you listed as a registered voter. It is at - www.voterview.org
It’s easy to use, and it is the official site promoted by the Secretary of State, who is the top election official in Arkansas.
Voting should be easy, but in order to prevent election fraud we have to follow regulations that can seem complicated if you’re not familiar with them.
I strongly urge everyone to take the time to learn about the process, and discuss it with your friends and family.
There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you have to ask someone where to vote, or how to go about it.
This year, please keep the safety of poll workers in mind. They spend long hours at the polling places to serve you, and they should never have to risk their health to ensure your right to vote.
Voting is a precious right, and I’m thrilled when voter turnout goes up. Like so many citizens, I truly believe that we have the greatest system of government in the world. Every election day, I’m reminded that God has blessed America.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.