- Defeated incumbent Jim Sorvillo is waging the battle to keep his seat on multiple fronts.
- Sorvillo is asking the Arkansas Claims Commission to grant him an election do-over.
- The mistakenly counted disqualified ballots at the center of Sorvillo’s argument did not change the election’s outcome. Here’s the math.
While it’s possible politics could change the outcome of the AR House District 32 election, a quick spot of math proves the disqualified ballots at the crux of the defeated incumbent’s legal challenge cannot.
Jim Sorvillo is waging his battle for a do-over election on multiple fronts, repeatedly arguing that a box of disqualified ballots may have wrongfully awarded Ashley Hudson the victory. Republican Sorvillo held the West Little Rock District 32 seat since 2015 but lost it this year to Democrat Ashley Hudson by 24 votes.
On Monday, Sorvillo took his fight for an election mulligan to the state Claims Commission. He is asking the Claims Commission to keep Hudson from being seated in the Arkansas House of Representatives and hoping Governor Asa Hutchinson will call a new election.
Monday’s filing marks the second prong of Sorvillo’s fervid strategy to reverse his fortunes. Sorvillo first filed suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court, where Judge Wendell Griffen declined to hear his case until certified election results were in hand. Sorvillo appealed Griffen’s dismissal, and the Arkansas Supreme Court is set to receive Sorvillo’s brief on the appeal this Friday, December 4.
There’s no telling where or how far these claims will go. But a simple math problem proves the 327 mistakenly counted ballots did not alter the outcome.
On November 10, the day the disqualified absentee ballots were counted, Jim Sorvillo gained 108 votes from absentee ballots. Hudson gained 130 votes from absentee ballots. Even if all absentee votes counted that day in the District 32 race were subtracted, Ashley Hudson’s 24-vote margin would narrow, but she would still win by two. Hudson’s final tally with all absentee votes tallied on Nov. 10 removed from the count would be 8,274. Sorvillo’s would be 8,272.
Below are spreadsheets provided by the Pulaski County Election Commission. They show how the race stood on Nov. 6, the last time votes were counted before November 10. November 10 is the day election workers accidentally counted the 327 disqualified ballots, along with hundreds of other eligible ballots.
These ballots at the crux of Sorvillo’s argument all came from registered voters. But the Pulaski County Election Commission disqualified these ballots because of problems with accompanying paperwork. Those problems could include missing digits on zip codes, missing voter statments or questions over the authenticity of a signature. Poll workers have no way to pull anonymous ballots out after they’re counted. But by inspecting envelopes and paperwork, they determined 27 of those 327 ballots came from District 32 voters. (Poll workers initially thought 32 of the 327 ballots came from District 32, but a closer look revealed that five of those voters actually live in neighboring districts.)
Sorvillo also cited other snafus he said could have influenced the final outcome of the District 32 race. Those include a failure to offer paper ballots at some voting locations and a stressful counting process that took two weeks to complete.
It’s true the drawn-out Pulaski County post-election count was confusing throughout, with misplaced or mislabeled ballot boxes and numbers that refused to add up. But Pulaski County voters weighed in on dozens of races this November, and no one is challenging those results. Not even in Arkansas House District 38, where incumbent Carlton Wing held off challenger Matthew Stallings by only 16 votes.
The courts are the proper venue for Sorvillo’s suit, Hudson said in her response to Monday’s filing.
Keeping the case in the courts would erase a glaring partisanship issue. All current commission members are appointees of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. And any recommendation commissioners make would go up for consideration before the heavily Republican Arkansas House.