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I am back from a break in the summer heat to continue the discussion on voting by absentee ballots for the Nov. 3, 2020, election. Already we know there will be a surge in folks asking about and requesting to vote by absentee ballot in November due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, after a very long and odd pondering of voters not publicly going to the polls in person, spoke on absentee ballots. Hutchinson, by encouraging absentee balloting, went directly against the whims and whines of the occupier of the White House, casting doubts of "...mail-in ballots as being corrupt" in an effort to steal the election form the current administration.

Hutchinson, wisely, said voters may use the excuse of being "unavoidably absent" and that will be accepted by almost all voting officials.

Voting on an absentee paper ballot from home must be mailed back to the country clerk's office in your county of residence.

There are several "absolutes" a voter must address in wanting to cast an absentee ballot for the November election.

First and foremost, is the person requesting an absentee ballot actually a registered voter in Arkansas? If you have doubts about being a registered voter, that must be confirmed and verified first, prior to a request for an absentee ballot.

Secondly, if you are a registered voter, ask this question: Has your home address changed since the last time you have voted? If so, you must get that corrected and verified with the county clerk (a post office box is not a valid voting address).

Thirdly, after making the request, getting the paperwork done to have an absentee ballot mailed to you, do you have a copy of your government-issued photo identification?

I will add here a personal emphasis: Does that address on your photo ID match up with the address on your voter registration? If not, you have another hurdle to overcome.

Make sure you have a photocopy of that photo ID to mail back in the envelope with your completed absentee ballot and other voting paperwork to the county clerk's office. The copy of your photo ID will be the lynchpin in the entire process.

Double-check the dates absentee ballots will be accepted by mail -- the postal service does not guarantee speedy delivery. There is also no provision for a postmarked date on these ballots if delivery to the clerk's office is delayed.

I am told, a completed ballot without the photo ID copy will be placed in a "provisional" status and may never be counted.

You must also complete and return the signature page of the absentee ballot so "canvassing" officials may compare your signature to the one on file in the county clerk's office -- just another form of verification of who you are and your correct address.

Not completing this verification can also keep your ballot from being counted and placed in a "provisional" status.

There should be no mistakes on returning the ballots by the deadline to the county clerk's office in the preprinted envelope provided to you by the clerks prior to voting.

Mistakes on the voter's end are likely the main cause of ballots not being counted in 2020.

A surge of absentee ballots from a couple of thousand in a previous non-pandemic presidential voting year to an estimated 30,000 votes by absentee this presidential election year can lead to many mistakes by voters themselves at every step.

Be careful, be cautious, and make sure you read and follow all the instructions to ensure your absentee ballot counts.

A vote is indeed a terrible thing to waste in these pandemic and highly political times in which we live.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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