Drama continues on the question of leadership of the Arkansas House of Representatives.
As the numbers now stand, Republicans won a historic edge 51-48, with a Green Party winner, Fred Smith, who’s previously been a Democrat.
The victory includes a 45-vote margin for Republican farm laborer John Hutchison of Harrisburg (the fellow under ethics investigation for using campaign cash for personal expenses). Democrat L.J. Bryant reports to Democratic Party officials that he’ll be asking for a recount. There were complaints about faulty ballot scanners, the same problem reported in scattered sites around Arkansas.
But, more important, says the party’s Candace Martin, is Bryant’s report that there are about 200 provisional ballots to be considered in Craighead County. These ballots are not reflected in the vote total. She says it is her understanding that these provisional ballots arose from aggressive ID challenges by some poll workers in rural areas. IDs are required to be requested in Arkansas, but not required to be produced. When doubts about a voter arise, however, an election official can allow the vote but set the ballot aside for potential counting later after verification of eligibility. At this point it is impossible to know how many of those reputed 200 ballots are legal voters and, if they are, how they might trend. One indication, however, is that Hutchison leads Craighead County in the votes that were counted by a comfortable 55-45 margin. Continuation of that trend, even if all provisional votes are counted, means the seat, and the House majority, remains in Republican hands.
I hope to have more.
UPDATE: A spokesman of the secretary of state’s office has a more detailed version of events in Craighhead County which would indicate further that even a challenge of disallowed ballots will likely leave Bryant behind, though outstanding overseas and military absentees also could factor in if they turn up. Mark Myers writes:
We were in contact with Craighead County until 1:30 am this morning at which time tabulating the votes was complete. All the votes have been tabulated with the exception of the UOCAVA ballots. ( I believe there are 32.) There were 49 provisional ballots turned in. The Election Commission voted to go over them last night and they voted to count 13 of the 49.
We spoke with Craighead County Clerk’s office this morning, who confirmed there were only 49 provisional ballots, but also noted they have been receiving calls but have no clue about the “200 outstanding ballots.”. She said the Bryant campaign may be referring to the hand count ballots as provisional. If you recall, Craighead County inadvertently left two city council races off the ballot so they had two precincts (I believe 6 & 9) vote on ballots that were hand counted. They were tabulated last night and are included in the Craighead County numbers.
Here’s a handy compilation of legislative results from Roby Brock’s Talk Business.