For Teresa Cornett, voting from home is a relatively easy way to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When retired teacher Teresa Cornett isn’t spending time with her grand-babies, you’ll find her exploring Arkansas’s beauty and camping with her husband at one of our many state parks. She’s gone all in with camper life. “We’ve made it our quest to visit every state park in Arkansas. I have a print hanging up in our trailer, and it has all of the state parks in Arkansas on it. There’s a checklist, and we knocked off three parks just this last weekend.” 

Teresa notes that it’s strange how caring for God’s creation, like the beauty and wonder our state has to offer, has become a polarizing topic for some. The same could be said for voting as well. Cornett is approaching the “high -risk” age group of those most vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19. Though in the past she’s always voted in person, Teresa will vote via absentee ballot this year.

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park from Cornett’s recent camping trip

A friend asked if Teresa would print applications for herself and her husband; this piqued Teresa’s interest. “I’ve voted early before but have never filled out an application to vote absentee. My friends asked me to print off the application for her and that’s when I started thinking about it,” Cornett says. 

Older Arkansans Need a Safe Way to Vote

Those retirement age and older face higher covid-19 risks than younger individuals, including death. People sixty years and older experience the most severe effects of Covid-19, and this age group accounts for eight out of every ten virus deaths. The presence of Covid during an election means the most reliable segment of the voting population-and poll workers– may stay at home this year. Older Arkansans like Teresa have to decide between voting in person at a polling location (either early or on election day) or voting from home by absentee ballot. 

Two-step process

Voting by absentee ballot is a two step process. The first step requires downloading and printing the application form. This form must be filled out before one receives an absentee ballot. And the terminology and process may prove cumbersome for certain folks. “This part in the lower right hand asks about ‘signature of bearer, administrator or registered agent.’ So I guess I don’t need that?” Teresa asks.

A Designated Bearer or Administrator is anyone you choose to pick up or deliver your application or ballot, if you are unable to do so yourself. An Authorized Agent is a person that must file an affidavit from a hospital or nursing home. The affidavit verifies the applicant resides in one of these locations and is unable to vote in person. Read more here. If you’re applying for a ballot to vote from home, you won’t need a designated bearer or administrator unless you are unable to pick up or deliver your absentee ballot yourself.  

Voting by absentee ballot means a person will be unavoidably absent during election day. In Arkansas, this included those confined to nursing homes, service personnel stationed overseas, or those ill at home or in hospital. However, Governor Asa Hutchinson recently clarified that for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic, staying home for fear of contracting the virus is a valid reason to vote from home via absentee ballot. In other words, Arkansas can vote from home this fall. This is welcome news to Arkansans in the high risk category because of age or other immunity considerations. 

Why Voting Matters

With a bit of guidance, applying for your absentee ballot and then filling out the ballot itself is easy enough. And for Teresa Cornett, the process is worth it. Her ultimate goal is to make her vote count. “I’m concerned with Covid- all of the precautions the polling sites have to put into place like spacing and cleaning and how many people can be in the room at the same time,” says says. “We have seven young grandchildren. Their parents work, and when they go vote, we may have to watch their children. They could be stuck in a line for a while. And I’m normally healthy, but I could be sick during early voting. Who knows? I want to make sure my vote counts.”  

Vote Absentee for your health. Vote Absentee to protect those you love.

Teresa considers the responsibility not just to her own personal health but to those around her as well. “We have family friends who are medically fragile, and I’m trying to stay as masked up and as isolated from crowds as I can.” Cornett’s motivations to vote from home are twofold: she’s looking out for her own health but is also considering the health and wellness of those around her, whether it’s her children, her grandchildren, or those close to her that are at higher risk. Her choice to vote from home via absentee ballot is the simplest solution for making her voice heard. 

“I like to be involved. I see things that I want to change and fix. When I was a kid, the message I heard from my parents was, ‘If you want to help change things, one way you do it is by voting.’ It’s important to vote, and it’s an important part of your voice. Use it so you don’t lose it.”

For Teresa Cornett, voting absentee is similar to why she masks up for the health and wellbeing of her community. She says it’s about the collective- that’s what matters- all of us caring about our right and duty to vote. And the voices and votes of Arkansans do matter.

Cornett’s husband, Alex, on their recent trip to Bull Shoals White River State Park

The people of Arkansas deserve to vote safely this election. Whether it’s early, on election day, or from the comfort of your home, you have a choice. It may be convenient and safe for you to vote from home; that choice can also mean convenience and safety for those around you, and throughout your community. And luckily for Teresa, voting now via absentee ballot means more time for camping life. 

For more information on how you can vote from home, visit the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website here.