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Opposite page: Polk County Clerk Terri Harrison attended a Senate committee hearing at the state Capitol in February. This page, left: Harrison is president of the Arkansas Association of County Clerks and leads the group’s continuing education meetings. This page, right: AAC Communications Director Scott Perkins, AAC Legislative Chair Debbie Wise and Legislative Committee member Harrison hear updates on county-friendly legislation at a February meeting.

to the courthouse.” Tat began to change in the wake of the Help America Vote

Act, which was passed in 2002. Te law required states to update their election processes, and the Polk County Election Commission decided to go with electronic voting machines, beginning in the 2006 elections. “Tat was a little bit of a challenge,” Harrison said. “Tere was a lot of voter education that had to go into it as well.” Harrison and her small staff went to public meetings, the county fair, meetings of civic groups and any other place that invited them to demonstrate the new machines before they were actually used in any election. “Tat put the public’s mind at ease,” she said. “Once the

voters started voting on the machines, they loved it.” So did poll workers. “It does save a lot of time on election night,” she said. “Be-

fore my time, poll workers would count ballots at the polling place before they brought them in. Now all they have to do is shut the machines down and turn them in to us.” In 2014, Polk County started using electronic poll books

as well, Harrison said. Tat sped up the process of getting the names of people who voted into the system. And the Secretary of State’s office has begun researching new voting equipment to replace the aging machines currently in use. “Right now there’s a lengthy opening process that poll work-

ers have to go through, and we’re hoping the new machines will be a little more user-friendly for the poll workers,” she said. Voter ID laws, though, have been the biggest election-relat-

ed challenge for Harrison’s office recently. Poll workers there had always asked voters to show ID, and most voters were used to it, she said, so when legislators passed a law requiring voters to show ID, there wasn’t much of a transition. “Now that the ID law is reversed, we’re not currently doing

it,” she said of asking voters for ID. “But I still feel like they will use their driver’s license for ID because they’ve always done it.” Tere was some confusion, Harrison said, but poll workers

didn’t report a lot of it. A handful of voters mentioned that they’d heard they didn’t have to show ID anymore, but most


didn’t seem to be aware of the change. “Most people pretty much just go with the flow, and they’re used to showing their ID, so they have it out and ready,” Har- rison said. “Most of the time we didn’t even have to ask for it.” Even with the changes, Harrison said, elections are her fa-

vorite part of the county clerk’s duties. “It’s interesting the way it works,” she said. “I feel strongly about making sure it’s done correctly and fairly. At the end of the night on election night, I’m always anxious to see how it turns out, and find out how things went throughout the day for the poll workers.” Te results of this past election were historic for Arkansas, of course, with Republicans sweeping every state office and a ma- jority of seats in the state House and Senate. As president of the county clerks association, Harrison has been following any bills that would affect elections, marriage licenses or other aspects of the county clerk’s duties, and would be involved in working with legislators on those bills on behalf of the association. She’s hoping her status as a registered Democrat won’t be a drawback. “I’ve always tried very hard not to let that be an issue,” said

Harrison, who has been unopposed in every campaign after her first one. “I’m willing to work with people. It doesn’t mat- ter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican — I just want to do what’s in the best interest of our people and our county. I’m willing to sit down and work with you — it doesn’t matter what party you’re with.” Still, she knows debates about election laws tend to bring out the partisan politics. “We just have to work together and try to come to a solu- tion that’s in the best interest of the people of the state, and figure out a way to make it work,” she said. Little River County Clerk Deanna Sivley, who is secretary

of the Arkansas Association of County Clerks, said she has no doubt Harrison will be a strong advocate for the association’s issues with the legislature. “She’s pretty quiet most of the time, but she’ll surprise you,” Sivley said. “She’ll stand up when it’s called for.”

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