|Updated: 5/07/2012 8:09 pm
||Published: 5/07/2012 2:41 pm
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Thousands of Arkansans cast their ballots Monday on the first day of early voting for the May 22 primary and nonpartisan judicial election.
More than 5,700 people voted across the state as of Monday evening, according to the secretary of state's office.
With the Republican presidential nomination all but decided and no major statewide races, attention in the primary has shifted to congressional primaries in eastern and southern Arkansas along with a handful of heated legislative primaries.
In downtown Little Rock, where there's not even a congressional primary, some voters said they headed to the polls early just to get their civic duty out of the way.
"Let me do it the first day so I don't get bogged down when it's election day," Chima Igwe, a special education teacher, said after he voted.
Secretary of State Mark Martin predicts about 30 percent of Arkansas' 1.5 million registered voters will cast a ballot in this year's primary. More than a quarter of the votes in the 2010 primary were cast early.
At the top of the ballot this year is the presidential primary, and Arkansas has largely been on the sidelines in the White House race. Neither President Barack Obama nor likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney are expected to campaign in the state this year, but that didn't stop Valerie Phillips from voting for the Democratic incumbent on Monday.
"I just like what he's done in the last four years," she said after she said she voted for Obama.
Outside, a woman passed out campaign fliers for Jo Hart, an appeals court judge running against Raymond Abramson in a contest for a state Supreme Court seat.
Much of the campaign activity for the primary has been in the fight for the Republican and Democratic nominations to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Ross in south Arkansas. Ross, the state's only Democratic congressman, announced last year he would retire as he prepares for a potential run for governor in 2014.
Attorney Q. Byrum Hurst, state Sen. Gene Jeffress and Little Rock businessman D.C. Morrison are seeking the Democratic nomination for Ross' 4th District seat. Army veteran and management consultant Tom Cotton, Marine veteran and Texarkana police officer John Cowart and former Miss Arkansas and Mike Huckabee aide Beth Anne Rankin are running for the Republican nominations.
In the other contested congressional matchup, prosecutor Scott Ellington, state Rep. Clark Hall and economist Gary Latanich are seeking the Democratic nomination for the 1st District in east Arkansas to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford. There are no contested congressional primaries in central Arkansas' 2nd District or northwest Arkansas' 3rd District.
All 100 state House and 35 Senate seats are up in this year's election, too, and Republicans are confident they can win control of the Democratic-controlled Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. State Senate winners will draw lots to determine who will serve a two-year term and who will serve a four-year term.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
May 7th marks the opening period for early voting in Arkansas
With Election Day just over two weeks away on May 22nd, this gives voters an extra opportunity to cast their ballot.
Voting hours and locations vary.
Pulaski County Election Commission
501 West Markham Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Preferential Primary Election
Nonpartisan Judicial General Election
Election Day - May 22, 2012
Early Voting Schedule
Notice: Main Site Early Voting and Offsite Early Voting Locations Hours, Dates and Last Day to Vote Early Vary
Main Site Early Voting
Pulaski County Regional Building 501 W. Markham, Little Rock
Hours and Dates: Monday, May 7th - Saturday, May 19th from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Weekdays; 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays
Monday, May 21st from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Offsite Early Voting
Sue Cowan Williams Library 1800 S. Chester, Little Rock
Dee Brown Library 6325 Baseline Road, Little Rock
Roosevelt Thompson Library 38 Rahling Circle, Little Rock
William F. Laman Library 2801 Orange Street, N. Little Rock
Jacksonville Community Center 5 Municipal Drive, Jacksonville
Jess Odom Community Center 1100 Edgewood Drive, Maumelle
Jack Evans Senior Citizen Center 2301 Thornhill Drive, Sherwood
Sidney S. McMath Library 2100 John Barrow Rd., Little Rock
Hours and Dates: Monday, May 7th - Saturday, May 19th w 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Weekdays; 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays