The Washington County Election Commission approved a proposal Sept. 15 to turn Bud Walton Arena into an early voting site from Oct. 22-24, opening the door for students who might not otherwise get to vote.
Bud Walton’s West Concourse will be open to early voters from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. both days, and UA Transit and Parking officials have agreed to provide free parking in the area during voting hours, said ASG President Julia Nall, a co-author of the proposal, in an email.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18-to-29-year-olds make up 23.4% of the voting-age population in Arkansas’s third congressional district, which includes Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale and Fort Smith.
However, voter turnout for this age group in Arkansas was 15.5% in 2018, according to the Tufts University Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Arkansans can register to vote or check their registration at vote.org.
Several schools in the Southeastern Conference, including the University of Missouri, the University of Florida and Texas A&M, have instituted polling locations on their campuses. Most recently, the Student Government Association at Auburn University approved the addition of an on-campus polling location on Aug. 24.
The commission’s decision hallmarks a long-awaited achievement for the 99th Associated Student Government. The organization has pushed for a polling station at the UofA for over a decade, Nall said in an email.
“ASG has been asking for an on-campus polling site since at least 2008,” Nall said, “Meaning students have wanted to be able to vote on campus since many current freshmen were six years old.”
The proposal was a collaborative effort between Nall, ASG Director of Municipal Relations Billie Firmin, WCOC Executive Director Jennifer Price and Razorback Athletics. The Election Commission rejected five similar proposals by ASG members between 2008-2018, including a push before the 2018 midterm election.
Editors’ note: ASG President Julia Nall, who is referenced in this article, is a former staff member of The Traveler. Nall served as Design Editor before she was elected in March. The Traveler strives for transparency in all matters.