Election season is in full swing — early voting starts Oct. 19 — and the Times Record is dedicated to covering it in a beneficial and educational way during unprecedented times that call for more attention to detail than ever.
We promise to cover this election in a timely and fair manner, which is likely to stretch well past Nov. 3, as we might not have the full results on election night or even know the winner of local, state or national races. For readers who have access to the internet, please check our website, swtimes.com, for our most up-to-date information on the elections. Because of deadlines, all election results will not be in the Nov. 4 print edition.
We make a promise that we will do our best to be a watchdog and fact check rumors as they arise and give fair accounting for what is happening.
We have worked to provide readers with information to make informed votes on the issues and candidates since late last year when announcements began. Most recently, state columnist Steve Brawner has offered looks at Issues 2 and 3 — the state ballot measures on term limits and creating constitutional amendments, respectively — as well as the ½- percent sales tax extension for state road improvements.
Times Record chief photographer Brian Sanderford has also made a video with the Sebastian County Election Commission chairperson on poll worker safety. Voters are not required to wear protective masks since it is an exception in the governor's executive order, but poll workers will have personal protective gear provided to them. The video also shows the election coordinator speaking on the voting process.
Reporter A. Drew Smith also recently detailed the commission’s process of recruiting and training poll workers and their thoughts on requesting increased police presence.
We have provided coverage of the upcoming vote on a ¼-percent county sales tax to support the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) since the Sebastian County Quorum Court voted in May to get it on the ballot. We will continue to provide space for news and opinions on the UAFS-support tax that has drawn both support and opposition.
In addition, we have provided extensive coverage of the Division VI Sebastian County Circuit Judge race which has gone into a runoff between Greg Magness and Rita Howard Watkins.
Although presidential general elections have a wider turnout than non-presidential elections, many voters in Arkansas will not likely take advantage of their hard-fought right to vote.
In the 2016 general presidential election, the voter turnout in Arkansas was 64.65% — 1,137,772 of the 1,759,974 registered voters cast ballots. It was much less at 38.39% in the preferential primary with 644,523 ballots cast from the 1,678,828 registered voters at the time.
Voter turnout for the 2016 general election in Sebastian County was 60.89%. Crawford County voters showed up even better and are historically among the most active in the state. Crawford County had a 42.58% turnout in the 2016 preferential primary — 13,268 of the 31,160 registered voters cast ballots. Then 67.95% of registered voters showed up in the 2016 general election — 22,612 of 33,275 voters cast ballots.
Looking at the numbers, the electorate must be uninterested, jaded, or disappointed in past elections; or the Electoral College system. Well, let me be one of many to say "Your vote counts!" Especially on hyper-local issues like the UAFS-support sales tax and a circuit judge race.
A lot of people died for your right to vote. In my mind, it’s a slight to our ancestors if you don’t vote. They fought and died for us to remain free and make things more fair for citizens to vote. Not more than a couple generations ago, people had to pay a poll tax to vote. People fought for our freedoms both abroad and at home.
As President Abraham Lincoln once said, "Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters."
John Lovett is regional editor for the Times Record and Gannett newspapers in western Arkansas. He can be reached at email@example.com.