The November election will be held on November 3 and an absentee ballot can be requested up until October 27.

As Election Day nears, the Jefferson County Election Commission is making steps to ensure proper protocol and procedures are in place.

During their meeting Thursday night, Jefferson County Commissioners Stuart Soffer, Michael Adam and Theodis Davis discussed unresolved issues and new businesses concerning preparations for the November’s election.

The November election will be held on November 3 and an absentee ballot can be requested up until October 27.

George Stepps, the newly hired administration personnel and election coordinator, reported to the commissioners on ES&S training and his plan to train poll workers.

Stepps recommended the Reynolds Center, White Hall Community Center and the Pine Bluff Convention Center be training facilities for up to 240 people.

“We will have a maximum of 10 sessions, with several of them on Saturdays,” said Steps. According to Stepps, the first class will consist of the poll judges and their assistants and the second class will consist of the poll judges, sheriffs and the clerks.

“We are going to have six classes of 40 persons each,” said Stepps who identified tentative dates in October.

He provided a draft of a letter to be sent to each poll worker explaining the “no contact” election with training precautions to ensure the health and safety of poll workers and voters.

In the letter it states poll workers will make voter entries in the poll tablets and a tray will be used to provide voter photo ID to check-in. Officials will use the same tray to return the photo ID along with the voter’s ballot card and a pencil eraser that will be used to vote on the touch screen.

When the ballot is printed the voter will insert it into the tabulator, according to the letter.

Stepps said the poll workers would have until August 14 to confirm availability. Before Stepps made contact with those facilities, he wanted the commission to look over the tentative dates.

Adam explained that the cost to use those facilities and availability dates would be needed in order for the commission to make a decision.

Soffer expressed the dates weren’t a factor at the moment and the plan of action was “worthless”.

“It doesn’t say anything,” said Soffer while pointing out other training methods that were left out of the proposal such as closing the polls. “We have different categories of people that have to be trained.”

According to the Jefferson County, Arkansas Poll Workers Job Guide 2020 Summer Edition, all poll workers are required to be trained for a regularly scheduled election.

The 12-step guide details opening the polls from assembling and reviewing all supplies, forms and notices the day before election, setting up the equipment, opening the DS-200 Tabulator to closing the polls.

According to a memorandum for Jefferson County Election Officials, Jefferson County will have new voting equipment, an electric poll tablet called the PVR.

The PVR will print a bar coded ballot card for each voter that is compatible to the Express Vote ballot maker, identifying the voters precinct.

The voter will insert their ballot card into the ExpressVote ballot maker and the voter will vote using the touch screen.

When the voter is finished, their selections will be printed on a ballot card which they can insert into the DS-200 Tabulator for their vote to be counted.

“Everybody and their momma has to be trained from opening to closing so they know what it is,” said Soffer.

Davis suggested additional training be given to Stepps as he was newly hired for administration support by Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson, stating he knew him personally pointing out his capabilities.

Adam’s impression of Stepps was that he would be already trained to perform his administration duties, which Soffer agreed.

After much debate on who would train Stepps, policy, entitlement and job descriptions, Soffer suggested revisions be made to the letter before sending it out.

Despite the clerical mistakes, both Soffer and Adams complimented Stepps for his good works in other areas of contribution.

A motion to tentatively approve the Election Day Procedures for conducting a no contact election to prevent exposure to COVID-19 was approved by the commissioners.

The procedures state each polling site will contain one sign on each door used by voters to enter the building with bright signage illustrating and describing social distancing.

Every election official will wear an appropriate facemask. PPE gowns and gloves will be made available for all election officials.

Other procedures include voting processing and provisional ballots stating the poll judge shall complete the provisional ballot envelope wearing gloves. Gloves will be disposed of after each transaction.

Contact precautions will include frequent sanitizing of doorknobs and ExpressVote ballot makers.

Even though steps are being made to ensure safety on Election Day by the Jefferson County Election Commission, Soffer feels there will be more people who will opt for Absentee Voting.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced any Arkansan could vote by absentee ballot in the November elections if they have a health concern related to COVID-19.

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston said that current laws allow the ability to vote with an absentee ballot due to the pandemic.

To vote with an absentee ballot in Arkansas, you must be registered to vote in the state and you must request the ballot from your local County Clerk.

According to Thurston a voter can request an absentee ballot if:

• You will be unavoidably absent from your polling site on Election Day, OR

• 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.

Potential new voters have until October 5 to register for the November elections.