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Early voting begins in Arkansas for November election

October 19, 2020 GMT
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Voters stand in line Monday Oct. 19, 2020 at the Pulaski County Regional Building in downtown Little Rock, Ark., as they wait to vote on the first day of early voting. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)
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Voters stand in line Monday Oct. 19, 2020 at the Pulaski County Regional Building in downtown Little Rock, Ark., as they wait to vote on the first day of early voting. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Early voting began Monday in Arkansas for the November general election, and lines were reported at several locations around the state.

Secretary of State John Thurston hasn’t predicted how many of the state’s 1.8 million registered voters will cast a ballot in this year’s election. Officials, however, are expecting a large number of mail-in ballots after Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an order allowing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to vote absentee.

The voters casting ballots early included Heather Edmiston of Springdale, who had initially planned to vote by mail but decided to vote by person over concerns about possible delays in postal service.

“I don’t tend to be a super political person, but I love to vote, I always vote, and I really want my vote to count,” Edmiston said.

In Pulaski County, where Little Rock is located, nearly 8,000 people voted early Monday. That’s more than on any other day of early voting for at least the last decade and likely a record for the county, Pulaski County Director of Elections Bryan Poe said.

“There was just a tremendous volume,” Poe said.

Aside from the presidential race, the election features an unexpectedly tight race for a congressional seat in central Arkansas. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton is seeking reelection but only faces a Libertarian challenger.

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Arkansas’ ballot also features three measures legislators referred to voters, including a proposal to permanently extend a half-cent sales tax for highways. Hutchinson flew around the state Monday to promote the measure, which also has the backing of the state Chamber of Commerce and other top lobbying groups.

“We’re going to work very hard in the next two weeks and not take anything for granted, but the more people understand about Issue 1, the better chance we have to get it passed,” Hutchinson said.

An unlikely coalition of opponents that include the Sierra Club and Americans for Prosperity also campaigned against the measure Monday, holding a rally to mark the start of early voting.

The other ballot measures include a proposal to ease Arkansas’ term limits for state legislators and another that would place new restrictions on ballot initiatives.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo