Tammy Wiltz

County Clerk Tammy Wiltz works on absentee ballot applications at her office in the County Annex.

There has been much talk about voting by absentee ballot ahead of the Tuesday, November 3 general election since some people fear voting in person amid COVID-19 concerns.

The process of absentee voting starts with a person requesting an absentee application, according to Tammy Wiltz, Columbia County Clerk. Absentee ballot applications may be picked up at the County Clerk’s Office, or people can have them mailed.

Absentee ballot applications may also be found at the Arkansas Secretary of State website. CLICK HERE to see it.

People planning to vote by absentee ballot must submit applications for absentee ballots no later than seven days before an election – in this case, tomorrow.

“Once they return it to our office, they will be issued an absentee ballot with instruction on how to complete it,” she said. “And then once they return it, we put it in the system that it was returned, and it is put in a lock box.”

People voting by absentee ballot may deliver them to the County Clerk in person by 5 p.m. Monday, November 2, which is the final day of early voting. Voters may also designate a person called a “bearer” to physically return their ballot to the County Clerk’s Office by the same deadline.

Finally, absentee ballots may also be returned by mail. They must be postmarked by Tuesday, November 3.

Wiltz said the absentee ballots will be tabulated earlier than those ballots cast through early voting. Although it is going to be a lengthier process to count all those who voted, especially with the absentee voters, Wiltz said it will not be difficult.

The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office said tabulations on absentee ballots could start earlier than normal, Wiltz said. Election commissioners will decide when to start counting absentee ballots, but the date and time hasn’t been decided.

An important thing to consider voters should consider is whether absentee voting is the right choice. Election law allows absentee voting only in particular circumstances. In Arkansas – as in many other states – election officials have decided that fear of contracting COVID-19 is a valid reason to vote absentee.

These are the other reasons people can cast an absentee ballot in Arkansas. They include the following:

-- You will be unavoidably absent from your polling site on Election Day.

-- You will be unable to attend your polling site on Election Day due to illness or physical disability, or

-- You are a member of the Uniformed Services, merchant marines or the spouse or a dependent family member and are away from your polling location due to the member’s active duty status, or a U.S. citizen whose residence is in Arkansas but is temporarily living outside the territorial limits of the United States.

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