May of an odd-numbered year is not the time to typically find consequential election days in Arkansas, but tomorrow will be as exception as several important special elections take place across the Natural State.
In the Pulaski County School District, voters will cast votes on a millage increase that could be the key to whether federal court oversight of the district ends with a declaration that the district has achieved unitary status. And, in Eureka Springs, voters will cast ballots on the future of Ordinance 2223, the non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) quickly passed by the town’s city council in the days before Senate Bill 202 (now Act 137) moved towards becoming law. Governing’s Alan Greenblatt reports today on the action across the state to pass anti-discrimination laws in advance of Act 137 taking effect on July 22.
Late this afternoon, Shannon Hix of Keep Eureka Fair reports that approximately 425 early votes were cast in the election. (418 have been cast at the Eureka Springs early voting site and a handful of eligible Eureka Springs voters showed up at a Berryville early voting site.) In a town where just 792 votes were cast in the November midterm elections, this is fairly remarkable early voting activity. For comparison, 320 early votes were cast this past November. High turnout should bode well for pro-equality forces in a town with consistent progressive tendencies in recent election cycles. In the December special election to consider the fate of a similar Fayetteville city ordinance, low overall turnout ended up dooming the measure.
However, it’s important to note that early vote results may not match voter sentiments on election day. In the Fayetteville vote, pro-NDO forces came out with about a 500 vote margin from the early vote reported as the polls closed. But, in the end, the ordinance was repealed with about 500 votes to spare, meaning that election day voters broke against the measure by approximately 1,000 votes.
Folks watching Eureka Springs results tomorrow evening should anticipate a big lead for Ordinance 2223 when the first results are announced as an impressive ground game has pulled supporters to the polls this past week. The key question: How much will that lead close as the hours go by tomorrow evening?