- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - A state law changed last year will allow voters bearing concealed handguns into some polling stations in Benton and Washington counties.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1QgHJZ2 ) reports that the change in state code opens the door for concealed guns, but the final decision will rest in the hands of those who own the private facilities being used as polling stations.

“Arkansas is a pretty rural state in the scheme of things,” said Bill Ackerman, Washington County Election Commission chairman. “Many of these families who now have a permit (to carry) — they are knowledgeable when it comes to firearms. We don’t anticipate any problem.”

According to Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler, there are 12,101 active concealed weapon licenses in Benton County and 9,339 in Washington County.

Election commission information shows that Benton County plans to open 44 polling centers for the Tuesday primary. Washington County will open 49 polls. Of those, eight centers in Benton County and 12 in Washington County either are planning to allow concealed guns, or have not yet told commissioners their plans.

Messages seeking comment left at 10 polling centers last week have not been returned. No one has complained about the issue, both counties’ election officials said.

Officials said no communities or poll workers have requested extra patrols from police.

“We always have concerns that elections are conducted safely and fairly,” said Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state’s office. “However, we do not have any indications that this is not the case, and we trust our law enforcement.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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