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Pulaski Co. to double-check provisional ballots in case of residents accidentally voting twice

Many requested a provisional in-person ballot after being worried their absentee ballot wouldn't arrive on time.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Pulaski County Election Commission meets Monday and Tuesday to determine how many provisional ballots will be tallied after hundreds of voters visited polls even after applying for absentee ballots.

For many, the in-person vote was an insurance policy after concerns absentee ballots wouldn't arrive in time to be counted. 

Arkansas law allows for a provisional ballot, but now election officials need to check them against the absentees to make sure no one votes twice.

"Our office is certainly doing the research to determine that provisional," said Terri Hollingsworth, the Pulaski County clerk on Monday. "What is it that they need? What is it that they didn't provide? And we go from there."

Hollingsworth is coming off a weekend that saw her staff scramble to allow people who failed to provide sufficient identification to provide that proof by noon on Monday.

She's disappointed the commission gave her office such short notice.

"The majority of the [voters] that I saw are persons who had mobility issues and that's the reason they voted absentee," she said.

But with that deadline passed, the commission and the clerk spent the start of the week bundling thousands of provisional ballots into batches for evaluation. 

On a spreadsheet provided to commissioners are three tranches of 2,478 voters, with the majority noted as having requested an absentee ballot.

"We obviously want every legitimate legal vote to count, and so before we can count that in-person vote that was provisional, we need to make sure that voter didn't also vote absentee," said commission chair Evelyn Gomez.

Like seemingly everything in the 2020 election, those numbers are unprecedented, and at least two close races for the state legislature could still be flipped depending on how many provisional ballots join the tally or get dumped because a mailed ballot has already been counted.

In North Little Rock's House District 38, incumbent Republican State Rep. Carlton Wing leads Democrat Matthew Stallings by just 81 votes. 

In West Little Rock, Republican Jim Sorvillo is trying to hold on to his 66 vote lead over Ashley Hudson, a Democrat, in House District 32.

That means a few more days of uncertainty and work for election officials.

"It's still anybody's game," said Gomez. "So I know my heart goes out to those candidates that just don't know yet."

"Our staff is tired," said Hollingsworth. "We're worn out, yet we still have to make sure that we come every day and get what we need to get done because that's what we have to do."

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