Written by Emma Jones
Not really — but no worries, because I will soon. Early voting for statewide and local elections in Arkansas starts Oct. 24, and elections run until Nov. 8, and as a proud Arkansan, I plan on registering and voting when I get the chance during this election cycle. I’d like to use this column to encourage you to do the same.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Chris Jones, the Democratic nominee for governor of Arkansas, speak in an event hosted by the Black Student Association. During his talk, Jones said something that really stood out to me: Arkansas is currently dead last in voter registration and turnout by state. Fiftieth out of 50 Jones said that regardless of who people would be voting for during the general elections this year, the most important thing was to get more people registered and actually to the polls to cast their votes.
I have not been very good at exercising my democratic right to vote since I turned 18, which I have come to regret. A timely example is from just this summer: my hometown of Mountain Home tried to get a millage bill passed to renovate the high school. I didn’t go home to vote, or mail in an absentee vote, and the bill fell by only 17 votes. I was ashamed! I still have three younger brothers in high school that could have benefitted from my vote, but I was so sure the bill would pass that I didn’t bother.
If voting seems confusing, or if, like me this summer, you don’t want to be bothered by doing it, I would ask you to reconsider — for the most part, it is not that complicated, and you should be bothered to care about statewide and local issues that you can have a say in.
You can register to vote in Arkansas by filling out a voter registration form and mailing it to your local election office. If you’re not sure if you’re registered, you can look up your status through the Arkansas Secretary of State website.
For those who are from out of state, or maybe are from Arkansas and don’t have the time to make a trip home to vote, absentee voting is not a complicated process either. To request an absentee ballot, contact your county clerk where you are registered to vote. Some states may require you to have a valid excuse to vote absentee, but most will allow for university students. If you’re eligible, the county clerk will direct you on how to request and return your absentee ballot.
I know voting can seem boring or too complicated, but it’s important for us younger generations to get into the practice of doing it. Local and statewide offices and issues have a direct impact on a student’s home or college community. Historically, young adults have voted at lower rates than older citizens; realizing at a younger age the importance of voting sets young adults up for a future of democratic responsibility.
So when the time comes later this semester, vote! Your voice matters.