photo of absentee ballot - pen poised, reads "vote by mail"With the uncertainty about how long COVID-19 will continue to effect our daily lives, and the chance that social distancing and other precautions may extend through the elections this November, it is more important than ever that Arkansans with disabilities be familiar with how absentee voting works in our state.  While the governor may decide to allow no-excuse absentee ballots in upcoming elections, currently there are only four reasons to vote absentee:

  1. You will be unavoidably absent from your polling site on election day
  2. You will be unable to attend your polling site on election day due to illness or physical disability
  3. You are a member of the Uniformed Services, or a spouse or dependent family member, and are away from your polling location due to the member’s active duty status
  4. You are a U.S. citizen who is temporarily living outside of the United States

If you want to request an absentee ballot you will have to fill out an absentee ballot application.  You can get an application by contacting your county clerk’s office or by visiting the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office at https://www.sos.arkansas.gov/uploads/elections/Absentee_Ballot_Application.pdf.  Once you have completed the application you need to submit it to your county clerk, either by mail or in person.  It is important to know the deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot, the deadlines will be different depending on how you plan to pick up your application.

In Person: by close of business the day BEFORE the election

By Designated Bearer or Administrator: by close of business the day BEFORE the election

By Mail: by 7 days before the election

 By Authorized Agent: by 1:30 p.m. ON Election Day. An Authorized Agent must give the County Clerk an affidavit from the administrator of a hospital or nursing home saying that the applicant is a patient of a hospital or long-term care or residential care facility licensed by the state and will be unable to vote on Election Day at their regular polling site.

A designated bearer is(A Designated Bearer is a person you choose to pick up or deliver your application or ballot.

Once you have your ballot you just need to make sure that it is filled out and then returned to the county clerk.  There are important deadlines for this as well.

In Person: by close of business the day BEFORE the election

By Designated Bearer: by 7:30 p.m. ON Election Day

By Mail: received at clerk’s office by 7:30 p.m.

It is important to remember that if you are planning to submit your ballot by mail that you will need to provide postage.

If you would like the state to consider changing to no-excuse absentee ballots, or if you would like to see other changes in the way elections work in Arkansas, such as automatic voter registration or universal voting by mail, you should contact the governor, your state representative, and your state senator.  It’s important to make your voice heard.

If you have any questions about obtaining an absentee ballot, or anything else related to voting, you can contact Disability Rights Arkansas via email, social media, or by phone at 1-800-482-1174.  We also have a flyer which contains this information which can be found at https://disabilityrightsar.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Absentee-Ballot-Flyer.pdf.

Christian Adcock is an advocate at Disability Rights Arkansas. Email him at cadcock@disabilityrightsar.org.