Voter guide to candidates, issues on Ark. ballot
By The Associated Press
Q: What races will be on the Arkansas ballot Tuesday?
A: Every ballot at each of Arkansas' 2,386 precincts will list the presidential race and a congressional race. There will also be five issues shown on every ballot, but the state Supreme Court has directed that votes not be counted on two casino-related issues that were rejected by the state Supreme Court. Depending on where voters live, they will also decide 55 contested state House races and 18 contests for the state Senate, plus a number of local races.
Q: Why is everyone so focused on the state Legislature?
A: President Barack Obama fared poorly in the Arkansas presidential primary and many expect Mitt Romney to win the state's six electoral votes. While some attention has been paid to four U.S. House races, much of the campaigning has focused on the more than six dozen House and Senate races up on Tuesday. Arkansas is the only former Confederate state where Democrats control the state Legislature and the governor's office, but Republicans believe they're on the verge of changing that.
Republicans haven't controlled the state Legislature since Reconstruction. A GOP takeover of 1 or both chambers would be a huge shift politically, but would also mean some major policy changes. Republicans have said they want to push for cuts in the state's income tax and perhaps reductions in state spending. They're also generally opposed or resistant to expanding the state's Medicaid program under the federal health care law, as supported by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.
Q: What new faces might I see?
A: The 4th Congressional District will have a new representative after Tuesday's election, as Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross announced last year he would retire from a seat he has held since 2000. Major party candidates to replace him are Democrat Gene Jeffress, a state senator from Louann, and Tom Cotton, a former management consultant and Army veteran from Dardanelle.
Another congressional race of note is Arkansas' 1st District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford is seeking a second term. Crawford is being challenged by Democrat Scott Ellington, a prosecutor who negotiated the deal that freed the three convicted murderers known as the West Memphis Three. Crawford ran partly on an anti-tax pledge in 2010, but this year proposed raising taxes on millionaires in exchange for congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment.
Q: What about those ballot issues?
While Arkansans will see five issues on the ballot, clerks will tally votes for only three questions: whether the state should impose a temporary half-cent sales tax to fund highway improvements; whether local governments can issue bonds for economic development projects; and whether people with certain illnesses can obtain and use marijuana to relieve their symptoms, with a doctor's consent. Arkansas would be the first southern state to legalize medical marijuana, if the issue passes.
Q: I don't understand redistricting and I have no idea who represents me now. On top of that, I don't even know if I'm registered to vote. How can I find out?
Current voter registration information is available at https://www.voterview.ar-nova.org and includes a list of your state and local districts. Once your district number is known, you can see other information about your district at http://www.arkansasredistricting.org/maps/Pages/default.aspx
Q: What time do the polls open?
A: Polls open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. If you are in line at 7:30 p.m., you will be allowed to vote.
Q: I had an absentee ballot mailed to me but haven't returned it yet. Am I too late?
A: No, but you better hurry. Absentee ballots must be actually returned to your county election officials before the polls close, not just postmarked.
Q: I forgot to register to vote. Am I out of luck?
A: Sadly, yes. But if you register now you will be able to vote in the statewide elections of 2014.
Q: What should I do if I see misconduct at the polls?
A: Assistant U.S. Attorneys assigned to handle complaints can be reached at (501) 340-2600 in central and eastern Arkansas and at (479) 783-5125 in western Arkansas. The FBI will field complaints at (501) 221-9100 and complaints about ballot access or discrimination can be taken to the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division at (800) 253-3931.
Q: Do I need a photo ID to vote?
A: A photo ID is not required to cast a ballot in Tuesday's election. Poll workers are required to ask voters to show one, but voters can still cast a ballot even if they don't have a photo ID.
Q: Is it going to be crowded at the polls?
A: Secretary of State Mark Martin has predicted that 65% of Arkansas 1.6 million registered voters will cast a ballot for Tuesday's election, or about 1.04 million people - though more than a third will have voted early or as absentees. The highest turnout in a general election in the last 20 years was 72% in 1992, when then-Gov. Bill Clinton ran for president.
A: Through Friday, around 400,000 registered voters had cast an early or absentee ballot in the state. The combined figure is 38% of the expected turnout.
Q: What's the weather forecast?
A: As of Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service says there is a 20% to 30% chance of showers in most areas. Temperatures should be in the 50s and 60s.Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.