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Voting patterns continue to shift

by David Showers | May 24, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

Early voting outpaced Tuesday's election day turnout in Garland County for the second consecutive federal election, upending the voting pattern from the last midterm primary and nonpartisan general election in May 2014.

The 6,640 ballots cast during 13 days of early voting in the May 22 preferential primaries, annual school election and nonpartisan general election made up 52.9 percent of the 12,536 vote total, according to Garland County County Election Commission data. The total included 94 absentee ballots and represented 19.42 percent of the county's 64,558 registered voters.

Early voting accounted for 40.7 percent of the 13,228 ballots cast during the previous federal midterm elections contested in May, leading to long election day lines that affected turnout.

The fallout from the May 2014 elections led to the vote center model the county has used during the last three federal elections, allowing voters to choose one of 24 election day voting locations rather than being assigned one according to their precinct.

Election day turnout exceeded the early vote total by almost 20 percent during primaries in March 2016, the county's first election with vote centers. The trend tilted in the general election that November, with the 27,294 ballots cast during early voting accounting for 66.2 percent of turnout.

"If you follow any of the news that was going on about early voting, most counties were seeing a decline in early voting from 2014, which is the last comparable election," election commission Chairman Gene Haley said. "We were up, but we really pushed early voting."

Turnout continued to skew older, with voters 55 and older making up 68.3 percent, or 8,338, of the 12,200 voters electronic poll books showed had checked in at the four early voting locations and 24 vote centers. Haley said internet connection problems for at least one vote center prevented some voter check-ins from registering on software the county uses to track turnout.

Voters 34 and younger had 7.2 percent of check-ins. Those 35 to 44 were almost 10 percent of turnout tracked by the county's software, and the 45-to-54 group was 14.4 percent.

The 676 ballots cast at the election commission building, 649A Ouachita Ave., made it the busiest election day polling location, followed by 576 at Creekside Community Church, 1010 Shady Grove Road, and 510 at Piney Grove Methodist Church, 2963 Airport Road.

The election commission will certify results June 1 and hold a hearing for people who have been notified their provisional ballots won't be counted. Haley said he expects nine of the 15 provisional ballots will be counted. Voters who cast four of the six others didn't show up on county voting rolls, Haley said. They said they registered through the state revenue office when they renewed their driver's license, Haley said.

The two other provisional ballots were from voters who didn't transfer their registration from another county before the May 18 deadline, Haley said.

District judge's race

The 12,111 votes in the Division 1 Garland County District Court judge's race were the most of any contest on county ballots. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Graham polled almost 60 percent of the total, beating part-time public defender Tamra Barrett by 2,271 votes, according to unofficial results.

A breakdown provided by the secretary of state's office showed Barrett won only four of the county's 56 precincts. Most of her support was in the Highway 7 north corridor south of Hot Springs Village, the northern corporate limits of Hot Springs and the Belvedere Drive area, winning the three precincts by a combined 273-247.

Graham enjoyed his largest margins in precincts that included the Golf Links and Shady Grove roads area, 446-270; the Highway 290 corridor and Red Oak area, 312-186; the Lakeside School area, 349-226; and the area of south of Lake Hamilton, 249-137.

He outperformed Barrett in five precincts that included Fountain Lake and Hot Springs Village by a combined 1199-789. The margin was secured despite Barrett spending $31,811 more than Graham with 10 days to go in the election, according to pre-election reports the candidates filed earlier this month.


No candidate won a majority of the 2,796 votes cast in the three-way Republican primary for constable of Hot Springs Township. Lake Hamilton Constable Scott Hecke won a plurality, 47.96 percent, but not enough votes to avert a June 19 runoff against Jim Kerr.

He got 34.19 percent, and incumbent Rich Pratchard got 17.85 percent. Steve Thacker defeated Robert Burks 1,580-749 in the Republican primary for Hecke's Lake Hamilton Township constable position.

Constables are elected law enforcement officers. Those who have completed the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training's constable training course can access the state's crime information database and make arrests in their jurisdictions.

Local on 05/24/2018

Print Headline: Voting patterns continue to shift


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