This opinion piece published in the Oct. 8, 2020, edition of The Record.



So those ballots that President Donald Trump claimed during Sept. 29 Presidential Debate were found in a river … hmm. First, if you drop a ballot in a river, what are the chances of it actually washing ashore and you being able to read it? President Trump seems intent on claiming voter fraud should he lose the presidential election on Nov. 3 against former Vice President Joe Biden, even though the president has presented no evidence of voter fraud. 

On the other hand, consider the Democrats’ argument that widespread voter suppression exists. There’s controversial Amendment 4 in Florida, where the courts now are requiring convicted felons to pay fines and restitutions before voting. And just last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation ordering counties to offer only one location for voters to drop off mail-in ballots in person. 

There’s so much in the news lately about voting, voter fraud and voter suppression that I wanted to reach out to Madison County Clerk Tamitha Blocker about voting right here in Madison County. 

In April of last year, Madison County went from 17 voting precincts to five. The reason was cost. Blocker said the estimated cost to operate 17 precincts was more than $500,000, with the county paying half the cost and the state paying the other half. By cutting the precincts down to five, the county’s cost dropped from more than $250,000 to less than $100,000. 

Blocker said early voting, which was introduced in 1996, changed the need for so many precincts. Some of the former Madison County precincts would only have 15 to 25 voters show up, costing the county $60 per voter in those precincts. In addition, the need for poll workers dropped from 68 on past Election Days to a minimum of 45 this year. 

Blocker said the change in the number of precincts has actually made it easier to vote, in that Madison County voters have the option of voting at any precinct on Election Day. 

“For instance, voters who drive an elderly relative to the polls can vote at the same vote center even if they live in two different precincts,” Blocker said. “Also, a lot of voters coming home from work in Fayetteville/Springdale can make it to the Hindsville vote center before the polls close, so they can vote there.” 

Voting has actually increased with the number of precincts being less. In the 2020 primary election with five voting centers, turnout was 2,734. In the 2018 primary with 17 precincts, turnout was 1,964.

Although voter turnout during this election is hard to predict, Blocker said the county might see 700 to 800 absentee ballots, 2,500-3,000 early voters and another 3,000 to 3,500 at the polls on Election Day.

Madison County has always had a high voter turnout, particularly in Presidential Elections, according to Blocker. Maybe that’s because Blocker and the Madison County Election Commission have made voting easy and scandal free, just as it should be in a democracy. Madison County is lucky to have Blocker at the helm. 

• • •

I received a lot of feedback recently on a column I wrote in which I criticized White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. McEnany, who is not a breast cancer survivor, praised Trump in a speech at the Republican National Convention for his support when she chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy, as she has a genetic mutation that could cause her to be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

My criticism was that she used her pre-existing condition to promote a president who is single-handily trying to take away health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for millions of Americans.  McEnany is part of the privileged who has good health insurance to both prevent or treat any illness that befalls her while at the same time she promotes a president that is intent on dismantling health insurance for the underprivileged. 

I don’t believe that McEnany, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 this week, should not have healthcare. Quite the opposite. My hope is that all women and men be afforded quality healthcare, as we all deserve to be at peace when an illness happens knowing that good healthcare could help us survive or at least lessen our suffering. 

Ellen Kreth is publisher of the Madison County Record and can be reached at