LITTLE ROCK — As they prepare for early voting to begin Monday in the Nov. 8 general election, Arkansas election officials say voters can rest assured the election will be conducted with integrity.


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the election is ‘rigged,’ and in a recent debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton he declined to say whether he would accept the election results if he loses.


But county election officials say there are multiple safeguards in place against manipulating results.


“I can’t imagine how they could do it. I don’t think anybody could get away with it,” said Sebastian County Election Coordinator Meghan Hassler.


“The (electronic voting machines) are not online,” she said. “Nothing about the actual voting is ever online, so nothing can be hacked from afar. And we have a paper trail. When a voter comes in, we know how many people … were allowed to vote, were issued a ballot, and we know how many ballots were entered into the (voting machine). We have all those ballots that we could go back and count.”


Poll workers also make sure the machines have not been tampered with before voting starts, Hassler said.


“At the beginning of every early voting or election day, we run off a zero tape to show that there are no votes tabulated or counted on the machine previously. We have a tape that shows zero,” she said.


Pulaski County Director of Elections Bryan Poe said voters “should have full confidence in the vote counting in Arkansas.”


“There are several checks and balances built in with people from both parties working together in order to conduct the elections,” he said. “So we have Democratic poll workers and Republican poll workers. We have independent folks who also work the polls.”


Several government offices, not just one, are responsible for elections, including county election commissions, county clerks, the secretary of state’s office and the state Board of Election Commissioners, Poe said.


The entire process is transparent, with parties, campaigns and candidates all allowed to send poll watchers to the polls to observe, he said.


“Members of the public, if they want to they can come to our office on election night and watch us as we tabulate the ballots,” Poe said.


Incidents of fraud by individual voters at the polls have been limited to isolated events and have not been widespread, he said.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Trump supporter, said last week, “I’m not aware of any challenge or problem that we face” in conducting the election.


“I don’t anticipate any problem, but we’ll see how it develops,” he said. “I’ve been in close elections before, and I know that there will be … poll workers that are there, there’ll be people making sure everything is done right.”


The governor was asked if he was troubled by Trump’s refusal to say whether he would accept the election results.


“Whenever you look back at the close election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, I would have hated to see George W. Bush say in advance that he’s just going to concede the election,” Hutchinson said. “He needed to be able to reserve the right to contest any state that was close, and Florida was close. So in that context I can understand, if it’s going to be a close election you don’t want to foreclose your options to say this needs to be looked at more closely.”


But Hutchinson also said it is traditional that a presidential candidate who loses recognizes the validity of the election.


“That’s how I wish he would have articulated it during the debate, that absolutely whenever the American people speak we accept it, and barring some unforeseen circumstances we will abide by the election results,” he said.


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Reporter Thomas Saccente in Fort Smith contributed to this report.