An election night misunderstanding of a new law led officials to incorrectly — though unofficially — tell candidates that no runoff would be necessary in the Crossett mayoral race.
By the next morning, however, Ashley County Election Commission members had informed candidates Valerie Martin and Scott McCormick that they would be competing against each other on the Dec. 4 runoff ballot.
In the general election, Martin received 685 votes and McCormick received 548. A third candidate, Tony Jones, took 478 ballots at the final count Tuesday.
At the time, Election Commissioner Terry McDermott said he believed a runoff would not be necessary, and Martin likewise said that evening she had been told she would not face a runoff.
McDermott said last week, however, that another election commissioner — Mike Smith — had spoken with the state election commission Wednesday morning and learned that a new election law may have been misinterpreted, causing miscalculations.
“It’s a new law and it’s a confusing law,” McDermott said.
According to the Arkansas Code 7-5-106, “The following procedure will govern if there are more than two candidates for election to any municipal office at any general election held in this state in which no candidate for the municipal office receives either: A majority of the votes cast; or a plurality of forty percent of the votes cast.
“A candidate who receives a plurality of forty percent of the votes cast must obtain at least twenty percent more of the votes cast than the second-place candidate for the municipal office to avoid a runoff general election against the second-place candidate.”
When officials tabulated the unofficial results Tuesday night, they apparently did not calculate the 20 percent correctly.
Since then, the candidates have returned to the campaign trail. In a written statement Tuesday, Martin thanked voters for their support and called for them to rally around her campaign slogan.
“A big thank you to all the citizens that voted for me in the general election,” she said. “I continue to look forward to the possibilities we have to all work together to ‘Move Crossett Forward.’ In order for that to happen, I need your vote in the Dec. 4 runoff.
“Please cast your vote. It is a powerful freedom and every vote counts and makes a difference.”
While McCormick said he didn’t question the election night announcement and congratulated Martin at the time, since learning he’s still in the race he’s keeping his campaign open and the election is up to residents and who they believe will do the best job.
“I’d like to be here four more years, and I am going to give it my best shot, but if I don’t, I wish Valerie all of the luck in the world,” he said. “It’s a hard thing when you’re running against friends, and in every election I’ve been in, I’ve always tried to remember the other candidates’ feelings. I’m not going to talk down about someone because I want the job.”
A Crossett council race will also be on the ballot. Voters will have to choose between candidates Dale Martinie and Michael R. Sims for Ward 2, Position 2. In the general election, Martinie won 789 votes and Sims took 474. A third candidate, Roy Langstaff, received 427.
Ashley County Deputy Clerk Wanda Rush said early voting for the election will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 27 to 30 and Dec. 3. Early ballots can be cast at the Ashley County Clerk’s Office in the Ashley County Courthouse in Hamburg and at the Economic Development Foundation on Main Street in Crossett.
Election Day voting will be 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the First Baptist Church Multi-Ministry Building on Pine Street.