JONESBORO — Craighead County has already seen a marked increase in absentee ballot requests compared to the last general election, which County Clerk Lesli Penny attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the 2016 general election, Penny said the county counted 837 absentee ballots. So far, Penny said the clerk’s office has already mailed out more than 1,300 absentee ballots. More requests are being processed and are expected to be mailed out today.
Penny said it’s a marked increase.
“The pandemic is definitely a huge factor in absentee requests,” she said.
While Penny said the county clerk’s office is prepared to handle the increase in requests, she cautioned voters not to procrastinate requesting an absentee ballot.
“We are here, we have plenty of ballots, plenty of envelopes, and are prepared to handle the requests. Just don’t wait until the last minute,” she said. “We need to give the post office time to get it to (voters) and (time) for (voters) to mail them back.”
In addition to mailing in absentee ballots, Craighead County residents will have another option – a drop off location that will be set up at 209 Washington Ave.
“The county owns an old bank building behind the courthouse and will be setting up a drive through drop-off,” Penny said, noting that no voting will be taking place at the site.
“(Residents) can just pull in at the window, and we will have someone there receiving the ballots,” she said, adding that the location will be available from Oct. 19-Nov. 2.
Early and regular voting will still be taking place as usual.
Jennifer Clack, Craighead County election coordinator, said the county has been fortunate to have been a recipient of grants that helped the county prepare for the election.
“The state sent us two pallets full of personal protective equipment. This year you will see poll workers in masks, shields or both,” she said.
Clack also said she expects lines to be a little longer this year but not necessarily due to a larger voter turn out. The social distancing guidelines just require voters stay farther apart when voting, she said.
“We hope to get a good turn out and protect people as much as possible,” she said.
Christina Slusher, a poll worker for the Craighead County general election, said she feels the county is prepared.
“I really feel we have gotten everything we need to be prepared and we have gotten enough poll workers to make this work really well and keep everyone safe,” she said.
Early voting will occur from Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 at both the Craighead County Election Annex at 315 W. Jefferson St. and the Lake City Courthouse Eastern Annex at 113 Cobean Blvd.
Both locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. On Monday, Nov. 2, the sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Nov. 3, Election Day, 15 poll locations will be set up throughout the county where voting can take place between 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.