Early voting for the 2012 general election is underway, and Sebastian County is seeing a slight uptick in voter participation when compared to the 2008 presidential election.
During the first week of early voting, which began on Oct. 22 and runs for 13 days, Sebastian County had 7,187 ballots cast, an average of about 1,437 per day. Compare this to all of 2008, which averaged close to 1,320 ballots per day, and the turnout has increased around 9%.
Sebastian County Clerk Sharon Brooks said Monday (Oct. 29) that Monday had "felt like" the busiest day of the period, and actual day-by-day breakdowns are close to supporting that claim.
There were 1,189 ballots cast on the first day of early voting. By Friday (Oct. 26), the daily total had risen to 1,532. With two hours left before the end of voting on Monday, the 1,496 ballots cast were 37 away from setting a new record for the cycle. There had also been 772 absentee ballots cast through Saturday (Oct. 27) for a total of 9,455.
In 2008, 17,157 ballots were cast for early voting joining the 1,093 absentee ballots for a total of 18,250. With six days remaining in the early voting cycle, Monday's tally was more than 50% of the way to eclipsing pre-election day participation for the last presidential election.
In contrast, Crawford County is trending behind the 2008 general election with 2,497 ballots cast through Saturday, or about 416 per day. Compare this to 2008 when, during the full early voting period, 6,538 ballots were cast (about 502 per day) and the average is down approximately 17%.
What this means regarding how voters in Crawford and Sebastian counties are casting these early ballots – for President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney – remains to be seen, but if 2008 is any indication, the area will tilt heavy Republican.
In 2008, Sebastian County voters chose Sen. John McCain over Obama by a margin of 66% to 31%, while Crawford's results were even more pronounced with a 71% to 25% margin in favor of McCain. According to the 14th annual Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, Romney is attracting support from 58% of the state as a whole, while Obama attracted just 31% of "very likely voters."
If the Arkansas Poll is correct, Obama's 31% support statewide is a decrease of close to eight percentage points from the approximate 39%, who supported the President in 2008 when McCain won the state with close to 59% of the vote.