More than two thousand UA students, employees and local community members voted early Thursday-Saturday at Bud Walton Arena, the first-ever polling center on campus.
The Associated Student Government, after years of advocating for a polling site on campus, partnered with the Washington County Election Commission to organize the location at Bud Walton. The three-day vote total at the arena was tallied at 2,691, said Jennifer Price, Washington County director of elections.
Voters entered Bud Walton at the West entrance and waited in the concessions corridor at six-foot intervals to show their identification. Each voter received a personal stylus and a ballot to fill out at one of the eleven voting machines and dropped their ballot in a designated box on their way out.
The line moved much smoother at Bud Walton compared to other voting locations in the county, Price said.
Will Roth, a 2009 UA graduate that voted at the arena Thursday, said he thinks having an on-campus polling site is a great step toward greater civic engagement at the U of A.
“It is such a great feat for this university to finally have an in-person voting location,” Roth said. “I usually vote early at the courthouse, but as a huge Razorback fan, I wanted to vote in a place that means so much to me.”
Julius Mays, a graduate student, said it is more convenient for him as a student to be able to vote at Bud Walton instead of driving to the courthouse. He thinks this location will make voting a lot easier for Fayetteville residents and students registered to vote in Arkansas.
The need for more polling sites and the limited athletic practices in the arena were factors in the members of the Election Commission choosing Bud Walton as an early voting site, Price said. She wants to forge a partnership with the university for future elections, but will have to evaluate the future usage needs of the facility.
The Election Commission focused on how to make in-person voting at Bud Walton as safe as possible, Price said. The layout of the site was designed to keep voters from crossing paths and to limit touching of common items such as styluses.
“Whether voters were having concerns over COVID-19 and wanting to vote at home by absentee ballot or wanting to vote in-person early or on election day, our goal was to make voting safe and secure and efficient for every voter in Washington County,” Price said.
Kelvin Summerville, UA Library Annex Supervisor, said he felt safe voting at Bud Walton because everyone remained socially distanced and wore a face covering. He was planning on voting early at the courthouse, but found it more convenient to vote at Bud Walton because he was able to go during work hours.
He thinks that Bud Walton should definitely be open as a polling site in the future.
“There are a lot of students that may not have a car or know where to go to vote,” Summerville said. “Bud Walton is really easy for them to get to.”
Natalie Jerry, a Fayetteville resident, said she thought the poll workers clearly explained the voting process at Bud Walton. She thinks that having a polling site at Bud Walton gives members of the younger generation a better opportunity to make their voices heard. Her advice to young voters is to do plenty of research on all candidates before voting, early or otherwise.
“It’s great to see not only who is running for president, but who is running for your districts and wards,” Jerry said. “If you take your time to research before, I think you can vote for what you morally feel [is] right.”