As the nation turned its attention to New Hampshire’s primary, voters in Arkansas were perfectly split between the two candidates in a Democratic runoff election for a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives.
Unofficial results show Joy Springer and Ryan Davis each received 372 votes in Tuesday’s runoff for House District 34, which encompasses parts of east, central and west Little Rock. The seat has been vacant since the death of longtime Democratic State Rep. John Walker in October 2019.
Pulaski County Election Commissioner Joshua Price said, as far as anyone can recall, this hasn’t happened before.
"No one at the Election Commission has ever seen it, no one at the county has ever seen it, so this is a very special case," Price said. "Of course there’s been ties in the primary election or the general election, but not in a special primary runoff. So this puts us in a little bit of a unique situation."
Price said five overseas military ballots have yet to be added to the results, along with two provisional ballots cast on Tuesday. He said the Pulaski County Election Commission will meet Thursday to review the provisional ballots, but that the commission must wait until Feb. 21 for all military ballots to return from overseas.
According to Price, not all outstanding military ballots could end up in the final results.
"The issue with that is we don't really know if they're going to come in or not. There were five that were sent out by the request, but are they going to send them back? We really don't know, so by law we wait 10 days to receive those," Price said.
If a tie still remains after Feb. 21, Price said the responsibility shifts to Gov. Asa Hutchinson to notify the state Democratic Party of the vacancy.
"It involves the Pulaski County Democratic Party since all of District 34 falls in Pulaski County, and they will have their method where they select delegates from that district, and then those delegates will then attend a special convention hosted by the Democratic Party of Arkansas, and then from there they will select the nominee.”
Springer had a slight lead over Davis of 61 votes in the four-person primary contest, which forced Tuesday’s runoff. The eventual winner of the runoff will face Independent Roderick Talley on March 3. Price said early voting for the March election would have begun on Feb. 18, but cannot happen until a Democratic candidate is chosen.
"I do suspect that the candidates most likely want a recount and the Election Commission is prepared to go ahead and move forward with a recount as well," Price said.
The winner of the March 3 special election will serve in the House until the end of the year, which is the remainder of late Rep. Walker’s term.
Also on March 3, Davis, Springer and candidate Lee Miller will again face off in a Democratic primary contest for a full, two-year term representing District 34. The winner of that primary will again face Talley in the November general election.