Clearing the way for anyone to vote from home is a great start. But we need three more fixes to our voting plan to keep both our state’s voters and its democracy healthy in November.
1. Open more in-person polling sites.
The simplest way to facilitate social distancing at the polls is to increase the number of polling locations and expand their hours of operation. We should look to larger venues to allow for more space between voters. And it goes without saying that all polling places must follow strict social distancing and cleanliness guidelines.
2. Extend early voting by one week.
Extending the early voting period from two weeks to three will help thin crowds at the polls. This fix is key for voters who aren’t comfortable voting from home, or who miss the deadline to request an absentee ballot.
3. Educate voters about what changes to expect.
Voter education efforts are chronically weak in our state. And with all the confusion surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, voters need clear and trustworthy information so they can make plans to vote safely.
Voters should not have to hunt down the information they need. And grassroots organizations can’t take up all the slack. The state must explain the options so voters can feel confident they’re making the best choice. Sure, getting the word out will be a challenge. But a mix of traditional and social media campaigns will go a long way.
Bottom line: Offering no-excuse absentee voting cannot be the only action our state leaders take to keep our democracy healthy during the pandemic. They must also the early voting period and opening more polling sites.
Arkansas leaders should act now to ensure access to safe and fair elections. We can and should keep voters healthy in November.