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Saline County voters have set a new record for early voting in a presidential election.
On Monday, when the early voting process ended, a total of 23,317 had cast ballots, according to tallies from the office of Saline County Clerk Linda Montalvo.
During the general election in 2008, slightly more than 17,000 people voted early, Montalvo said.
The overall total included 1,456 voters on Monday when the Benton site was the only early voting location open in the county.
At times the line of voters stretched a full block from the entrance to the county voting center ("Vote Here" building) located across the street from the county courthouse.
"When it started raining and hailing, County Judge Lanny Fite allowed us to use the hall of the courthouse complex to accommodate the voters," Montalvo said.
"Anyone who was in line was allowed to vote," she added. "We got everyone worked through shortly before 6 o'clock."
Montalvo attributed the large number of early voters to the fact that Saline County's population is growing, "and we have more registered voters."
"Also, there's just a lot of interest in this election â€” some because it includes a presidential race, and there are also lots of other races," she said.
"People are just really interested," she added.
Polling places opened at 7:30 a.m. today and will remain open until 7:30 p.m.
In addition to the early voting site in Benton, there were two others in the county through Saturday. These included First Pentecostal Church on Arkansas 5 in Bryant; and Summit Bank on Arkansas 5 in the Lonsdale area, across from the East Gate entrance to Hot Springs Village.
Early voting dates are set by the state Legislature.
Montalvo is expecting a smooth voting process today.
"If there are no unexpected problems, we hope to be done by 11 p.m.," she said.
Darlene Westbrook is the new election coordinator for the county. She succeeds Montalvo in that position since Montalvo has assumed the position of county clerk.
Freddy Burton, who held the county clerk's position for nearly 20 years, recently retired early because of health issues.