In a virtual press conference, state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) announced that she would be conceding the 2ndDistrict Congressional Race to Rep. French Hill (R).
Elliott has kept neck-and-neck with the incumbent Republican in her campaign, with political analysts calling the race a “toss-up” in the lead up to Election Day. When votes began being counted in Arkansas, Hill quickly took a commanding lead and ended up with a 11-point margin over Elliott. As of Wednesday afternoon, Hill has received 55.6 percent of the vote with 182,248 votes to Elliott’s 44.4 percent with 145,255, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The AP called the race in Hill’s favor late Tuesday evening. However, Elliott issued a statement declining to concede the race last night. “Let me be clear, this race is not over, and I have not called French Hill to concede. Voters deserve to have their voices heard and their votes counted. There are still a significant number of votes to be counted and stacks of bankers’ boxes of absentee and provisional ballots uncounted in Pulaski County,” she wrote in an email.
Standing before the cameras on Wednesday afternoon, Elliott said she would be calling Hill to concede the race. Before making that announcement, she criticized the election process, particularly in regards to local absentee ballots in Pulaski County, as well as more generally around the country.
Throughout her speech, Elliott highlighted the importance of trust in democracy – how this trust undergirded the democratic process and enabled collaboration across the aisle. She cited her experience as a public school teacher – a frequent touchstone during her campaign – and her work with both Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature.
“Yesterday, across the country and right here in Arkansas, our democracy and our trust were put to the test. Trust has been a through-line of my career in public service. As a teacher of 30 years, I knew I would have to earn the trust of my students to help them succeed: earn their trust by doing more than just teaching for the test, by meeting their families, by keeping up with them for years after they left the classroom. In the legislature, I had to win the trust of my colleagues to have any hope of collaborating and making our democracy work. I’m proud to have earned the trust of my colleagues, Democratic and Republican, so I could use my background as a teacher to help create what became a no. 1 pre-K program in the country, to expand Medicaid and to help working families keep more of what they earn,” she said.
Trust in the democratic process, she claimed, was undermined during the race by her opposition. “My campaign for Congress was one where plain reality was questioned,” she said.
Elliott cited campaign ads that “slandered and twisted” her bipartisan work on cancer research, roadway funding and 911 funding. In a Nov. 3 AP article, Andrew DeMillo referenced claims from unnamed Democrats who had complained about distortions – citing an ad mailer depicting Elliott raising a fist in the air.
“But most of all, our trust in the democratic process itself was undermined,” she said. “Arkansas did the right thing by letting more people vote absentee because of the pandemic. Our election officials, especially here in Pulaski County, took intentional steps to undermine our trust and our democracy.”
She criticized local election officials’ decision to leave absentee ballots uncounted until the polls closed and questioned why this happened in a predominantly Democratic area. The Pulaski County Election Commission disqualified approximately 4,300 absentee ballots on Tuesday night – or roughly one-fifth of the total absentee ballots in the county.
“For what reason could this have been done? For what reason, other than to make people distrust our democracy. That could have been my ballot in those boxes, and once again, it could have been your ballot,”
“It is not lost on me that this happened in a heavily Democratic county with election rules controlled by the minority party,” she said. “Why has partisanship taken over our election officials to destroy the trust in our democracy?”
She demanded that each of the votes be recounted today but acknowledged that she planned to call Hill to concede the race. This concession will not be the end of her fight, though. As she wrapped up the press conference, Elliot said, ““I will keep standing, keep fighting so we can trust our democracy, trust our election process, trust that every vote is properly counted.”