Secretary of State issues statement on absentee voting in Arkansas

With COVID-19 cases continuing to increase in the state of Arkansas, the question of how to safely vote in the upcoming election in November has been on the minds of many.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has said in his COVID-19 press briefings that he plans to make a decision about whether or not to issue an executive order to allow no-excuse absentee voting by mail in the state sometime before August 1, which he says is the minimum amount of time election officials will need to make the necessary adjustments to prepare for the change.

Today, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston weighed in on the issue, saying he believes the state’s current election laws would allow for voters to request an absentee ballot from their county clerk due to the pandemic in a statement released on Friday.

Thurston’s full statement is below.

As Secretary of State and Chief Election Officer for the State of Arkansas, I have been receiving many questions and have listened to the many concerns of the citizens of Arkansas as to the upcoming November election. We are fortunate in Arkansas that we have in place the means by which registered voters may request an absentee ballot. According to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 7-5-402 and 7-5-404, a voter may request an absentee ballot due to one of the following reasons:

  • 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.

Those provisions, as provided by state law, allow the voters of the state to contact their local County Clerk, and request an absentee ballot for one of the stated reasons. I understand many of our citizens may be assisting loved ones or are fearful of exposing a vulnerable family member to the virus. I understand that many are fearful of contacting or passing along the virus to others in the community. While my office continues to work with county officials to prepare polling locations, we are also anticipating and preparing for an increase in Absentee Ballot requests due to the COVID-19 virus.

It is my opinion and belief, that our current laws are sufficient to allow the registered voters of Arkansas the choice of going to their local polling location or requesting an absentee ballot from their local County Clerk. We are fortunate that our lawmakers had the foresight in crafting our election laws to allow for times of being unavoidably absent whether by natural disaster, war, or global pandemic.

Fayetteville voters may request an absentee ballot from the county clerk through an application available via the Washington County website.