FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)- Hundreds of Fayetteville voters came out to cast their ballots in a special election Tuesday (Dec. 9) to decide whether the city's Civil Rights Ordinance should be repealed.
Voter turnout has been crucial to the special election, according to groups for and against Ordinance 119. Finance records from the Arkansas Ethics Commission show both Keep Fayetteville Fair, which is against repeal, and Repeal 119 have invested thousands of dollars in donations into their campaigns, which got under way several weeks before the special election.
Both groups relied on volunteers to knock on doors, make phone calls and put up signs.
Anne-Garland Berry, campaign manager for Keep Fayetteville Fair, said getting people out to vote has been the group's top priority.
"We know who our supporters are," she said. "So now it's just a matter of talking to them and getting them to the polls."
Duncan Campbell, a local minister and president of Repeal 119, agreed that the success of the special election relies on voter turnout.
"It depends on who actually decides to vote today," he said. "I believe the majority of the citizens of Fayetteville believe just like I do, that they are for repeal."
To get people to the polls, both groups offered voters free rides Tuesday if they didn't have a way to get to their polling locations.
According to Campbell, Ordinance 119 has gotten so much attention because it was passed without a vote by the city's residents. The Fayetteville City Council passed the ordinance in August.
"I believe it is a controversial issue," Campbell said. "It should've never been introduced to the city without discussion. There was only discussion during the process, [but] zero [discussion] before the process."
The ordinance prohibits local businesses and entities from discriminating against employees and customers based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors.
Berry said she's not sure why the special election has been popular.
"This is an issue that seems so basic," she said. "That it shouldn't have this much attention. For me, it's pretty basic. We don't want to fire people for who they are [or] who they love."
Repeal 119 also stationed poll watchers at each of the 17 polling locations in Fayetteville.
"It's always possible that someone would try and come and vote who is not a citizen of Fayetteville," Campbell said.
Berry said she didn't think the poll watchers were necessary.
"I think it's harder to get people to vote than it is to have people who are fraudulently voting," she said. "So I just don't think that's a problem."
Polls were open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.