Bud Walton Arena approved for early voting in Washington County

The Washington County Election Commission on Tuesday voted to approve turning Bud Walton Arena into an early voting center this year.

All registered voters in Washington County can cast early votes at the arena on the University of Arkansas campus from Thursday Oct. 22 through Saturday, Oct. 24.

Jennifer Price, executive director of commission, said she visited with university officials and toured the arena Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s vote.

Parking for voters has long been a concern when considering an on-campus polling site, Price said, but school officials have agreed to suspend ticketing during the three-day early voting period for anyone without a parking pass in three nearby parking lots – Lot 60, 62 and 56B.

“When we were there, there were spaces available in those lots,” said Price. “And (voters) won’t have to worry about having a visitors pass or anything like that.”

Price said the fact that early voting will occur when there’s no home football game helped the cause for securing an on-campus polling site this year. She also said school officials seemed a bit relieved that the commission was only asking to use the concourse areas of the arena for voting machines instead of placing voting equipment onto the basketball court.

“If we were looking to make it an Election Day site, I think we would need to use the court,” she said. “But I think it actually made it easier that we were just doing this for a limited time and asking for limited space,” Price said.

Yesterday the Election Commission approved Bud Walton Arena as an early voting center for the upcoming election !! An…

Posted by University of Arkansas Associated Student Government (ASG) on Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The university’s Associated Student Government has pushed for an on-campus polling center for many years.

“Special thanks to the Election Commission, Director of Municipal Relations Billie Firmin, Dr. Mary Skinner, Athletics, Parking & Transit, former ASG agents including (but not limited to) Hope Davenport, Mariam Siddiqui, and Ryann Alonso, and EVERYONE who joined the fight to make this possible,” the group posted to its Facebook page on Wednesday.

State Rep. Nicole Clowney, who represents District 86 in Fayetteville, posted a similar statement.

“Endless thanks to Ryann Alonso and Mariam Siddiqui for laying so much of the groundwork here, and to absolute rockstar Billie Firmin for pushing it over the finish line today!” Clowney wrote. “This will make voting more convenient and safer for so many in our community. This is what District 86 is all about.”

Price said she’s hopeful that the arena would be available for future elections as well.

“I do think that going forward, this is definitely something we can build on and hopefully have access to in the future,” said Price. “Especially if it’s successful and we see a lot of voters cast ballots there.”