Tuesday, September 02, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Early voting (continued)

The Lonoke County Election Commission reversed itself on Friday and agreed to hold early voting at Cabot, Lonoke, Carlisle and England for the general election on Nov. 4.

The commission wants to hold early voting in Cabot and Lonoke for 15 days before the election. But, in Carlisle and England, early voting will be held only on Friday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1.

We don’t think that’s enough time for early voting in those two communities. The commission needs to do what its predecessors did two years ago and allow early voting in Carlisle and England for a week.

This was the second meeting for the commission in a week. The Friday before, the commission couldn’t agree on extending early voting to Carlisle and England.

The election commission, made up of two rookie Democrats and one Republican, should meet again, learn more about early voting and resolve this controversy once and for all.

The problem is that state law requires a unanimous vote to add or remove a polling site.

Chuck Eick, the lone Republican on the commission, argued that the county does not have enough machines to extend early voting in Carlisle and England. Eick, an Air Force veteran, pointed out that 92 machines have been allocated for use in the general election. The county has 106 machines, but four are broken and the remaining 102 have not been inspected.

He said the commission did not have the means to fix the broken machines. The commission should get to work right away and make sure all the machines are working.

The two Democrats on the commission suspect Eick does not like early voting in predominately Democratic areas. Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) spoke at last Friday’s meeting and told Eick that voting machines could be spread out so that all communities would have plenty of time for early voting and no would be shortchanged for lack of equipment. Farrer is to be commended for standing up for all the people in the county, regardless of their political affiliation.

A growing, prosperous area like Lonoke County should be able to afford enough voting machines and not curtail early voting because of a shortage of funds or, frankly, because of politics. Let the quorum court look into any shortages and fix the problem if there is one.

Jerry Shepard, a former election commissioner, pointed out there is a larger minority population in the southern part of the county and not having early voting there would also “disenfranchise” the poor.

Fifteen days of early voting in Cabot and Lonoke will give voters plenty of time to go to the polls. But two days in England and Carlisle just doesn’t seem fair to us. Lonoke County is too big, and the election commission should not show favoritism toward one section of the county at the expense of another.

Besides Eick, the commission also includes chairman Richard Kyzer and M.J. Maneth, both representatives from the Lonoke County Democratic Committee.

Kyzer, the commission’s chairman, said, “I’m for the people of this county…I feel like it’s our duty as a commission to provide the people in the county a place to vote.”

Kyzer also said he wanted to look at opening more early voting sites next year.

He apologized that the early voting sites in the smaller cities weren’t opened during the primaries, explaining that happened because the new commission was unaware early voting in Carlisle and England had been done in the past.

Kyzer added that early voting is important because this is a big election year, including the governor’s and Senate races. There are several competitive races for mayor and the state legislature as well. A big voter turnout is expected.

It looks like the campaign is well underway. Let the early vote begin in plenty of time before the general election.