Tens of thousands of Arkansans cast ballots on Monday; Hempstead sees record early turnout of 3,346.
Tens of thousands of Arkansans cast ballots on Monday, the last day of early voting for the general election.
Secretary of State Mark Martin said on social media that by 4 p.m. Monday, 22,184 early votes has been cast statewide that day and 587,452 votes had been cast since early voting began Oct. 24. Early voting officially ended at 5 p.m., though election officials said they would not turn away voters who were already in the early voting locations at that hour.
At the Hempstead County Courthouse in Hope, Election Commissioner Sharon Wright reported a total of 3,346 early votes had been cast locally Monday as the early voting period ended that evening. Like other places in the state, the Hempstead County Courthouse saw long lines in the courthouse itself Monday afternoon.
On October 27, Hempstead County had already reached 1,000 voters when Charlene Haynes cast her ballot that afternoon.
In 2012, the last election year with a presidential race on the ballot, 439,262 Arkansans voted early. In 2008, 402,904 cast early ballots.
In Pulaski County, election officials said that as of 5 p.m., 78,411 voters had cast early ballots, 1,872 of them on Monday. About 75,000 cast early ballots in the county in 2012, said county Director of Elections Bryan Poe.
Workers at the Pulaski County Regional Building in downtown Little Rock set up two rooms for voting Monday so that people could form two lines instead of just one. Even so, both lines stretched down the block Monday afternoon.
“This is something different that we did this year because we knew we would have a lot of people on the last day,” Poe said.
He said there had been no problems between voters except for one incident.
“We had one guy poking another guy with an umbrella,” he said.
In Sebastian County, 29,160 voters had cast ballots by about 5 p.m., 3,276 of them on Monday, an election official said. The 2012 early voting for the county was 17,861.
An election worker in Jefferson County said shortly after 5 p.m. Monday that workers were too busy helping people vote to have taken a count.
Garland County Election Commission Chairman Gene Haley said 27,226 people had voted in that county by shortly after 5 p.m., 2,341 of them on Monday. About 22,000 voted early in the county four years ago, he said.
“It’s huge,” Haley said of this year’s turnout for early voting.
Update -- Wednesday morning -- With a total of 7,095 votes cast in Hempstead County, the early voting tally of 3,346 for the two weeks prior to Election Day showed that more than half of local voters apparently cast ballots early. In a statement Tuesday night, Election Commissioner Sharon Wright noted the trend, calling it "unusual," but then saying "but it was not a normal election this year." Overall, Wright said turnout was "great," and said the local election went on largely without any problems.
Editor’s Note: Original story by John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau with local information added by Rick Kennedy of the Hope Star.