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Election commission declares emergency

by David Showers | March 19, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.
A sign outside an early voting location that was opened earlier this month at the Hot Springs Mall for the preferential primaries, nonpartisan general election, District 22 special election, and annual school elections. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

The Garland County Election Commission issued an emergency declaration Wednesday that removed Creekside Community Church as a vote center in the March 31 Lakeside School Board runoff election.

Election day voting will be limited to the Election Commission Building, 649-A Ouachita Ave. Election officials are encouraging absentee voting to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Tuesday is the deadline for the county clerk to receive absentee ballot applications sent by mail, fax or email. Applications are available on the county website, http://www.garlandcounty.org, by entering "absentee ballot" in the search bar.

Applications can be submitted in person at the county clerk's office until March 30. Election Commission Chairman Gene Haley said the clerk's office had received more than 70 requests for absentee ballots as of Tuesday, an amount he said was unusually large for a school board runoff.

Haley said no more than two voters at a time will be allowed in the Election Commission Building. Voters will be required to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from each other and use a separate door to exit the building.

Haley said election machines will be disinfected after each use.

"I want somebody to go behind every voter and wipe the machine with alcohol," he said.

State law requires a minimum of four poll workers per location, but Haley said he hopes to staff election headquarters with six. He said they will be provided with personal protective equipment.

The county has about 200 trained poll workers, but most are of the age that places them at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. The State Board of Election Commissioners cautioned county election boards earlier this week to avoid using older poll workers in the runoff election.

Haley said he is asking student poll workers who staffed the March 3 preferential primaries, nonpartisan general election and annual school election to work the runoff.

Early voting will be held March 24-27 and March 30 at the Election Commission Building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Election day voting is from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The runoff is between incumbent Carla Mouton, a retired Lakeside teacher, and mortgage banker Brian French. Mouton won a 40% plurality March 3. French finished second in the four-way election, polling 25% of the vote.

Local on 03/19/2020

Print Headline: Election commission declares emergency

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