A cornerstone of democracy is the privilege of voting. This year, that coupled with the attack on the legitimacy of the upcoming election, makes feeling secure in the voting process even more important. Our president’s rhetoric about the use of absentee ballots and the novel coronavirus will have a huge impact on an election in which voter turnout is predicted to be at an all-time high. 

According to Madison County Clerk Tamitha Blocker, during this election season, people need to be more prepared than ever. This election, voters have several options, not only on the ballot but how they cast their ballot. 

First, voters need to make sure that they are registered to vote and that their address is up to date on their voter registration. “They can check this information by calling our office or by visiting www.voterview.org and entering their name and birthdate in the registration information,” Blocker said. 

Second, request your ballot now if you choose to vote absentee, as our governor has said is acceptable during this pandemic, in which the number of people diagnosed with covid is surging and, according to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, is not expected to peak until after the election.  Voting by mail is a process. You must request an application for the ballot, which will then be mailed to you for you to fill out and send in. You may request an application by calling Blocker’s office at (479) 738-2747. 

The United States Postal Service has slowed down delivering mail and is facing an increase in the volume of mail due to more and more people choosing an absentee ballot. To make sure your vote counts if you are choosing to vote absentee, request your application today, so that when ballots are printed and arrive in Blocker’s office, you will be sure to have yours mailed to you with enough time for you to return it.  Blocker said she anticipates receiving the ballots mid-September and will begin mailing out voter packets at that time. 

“Don’t wait until the last minute,” Blocker said. 

Other options for voting are to vote early during the two-week early voting, which will take place at the Madison County Courthouse, or voting on Election Day. Both of those options might take a bit longer. Due to social distancing requirements, the number of voters allowed into the room to vote will be roughly the equivalent of the number of voting machines. Most locations have between eight to 12 machines, so if a crowd arrives, expect to wait a few minutes outside. 

Blocker said indoor seating used to be available, but in order to properly socially distance voters, indoor seating has been removed, so that not a lot of people are in the voting location at the same time. Voters will be encouraged to wear face coverings. Poll workers will have face shields and face coverings. 

In addition, the election commission might be short on poll workers during the Nov. 3 General Election due to Covid-19. In the past, the county has used 68 to 70 poll workers when it had 17 precincts, but the number of poll workers has steadily decreased over the years. This year, many of the poll workers are older and considered in the high-risk category, so some of them are not able to work on Election Day.

If the county does not have enough poll workers show up on election day, the Election Commission will close the Wesley precinct. If you would like to become a poll worker, training will be held in mid-October. Poll workers are paid for their time for training and their all-day shift working on Election Day. 

And, one more thing to consider when voting, according to Blocker, is research the issues and the candidates before arriving at the polls. People will have 10 minutes to cast their ballot, so know how you plan to vote before arriving. 

Ellen Kreth is the publisher of The Record. You may email her at ekreth@mcrecordonline.com