*** Update *** Hope City Manager Catherine Cook issued the following statement Wednesday morning regarding candidate filing for three seats up for election in the 2018 cycle. According to Cook, City Board Petitions may be filed between July 27 and 12 Noon on August 17.
*** Update *** Hope City Manager Catherine Cook issued the following statement Wednesday morning regarding candidate filing for three seats up for election in the 2018 cycle. According to Cook, City Board Petitions may be filed between July 27 and 12 Noon on August 17, not August 10 as published in the original edition of this story. Information cited by Cook was verified through the Arkansas Secretary of State's office.
An estimated crowd of 40 concerned citizens, including prominent Hope City elected officials and department heads, gathered Monday night at the Hempstead County Courthouse for a special hearing of Hempstead County Elections Commission, and everyone heard that the apparent outcome to the City of Hope’s July 10 special election didn’t change, although the margin narrowed considerably by 11 votes, instead of the previously announced 19.
The revised unofficial count was announced by Commissioner Cindy Newsom as 380, For and 391, Against, which still meant that the July 10 measure to change the governance for the City of Hope still fell short, only by 11 votes.
The vote percentage was 49.2-percent, For, and 50.8, Against, revealing a sharp polarization of an almost evenly divided electorate among residents in Hope.
The original count announced after July 10’s election was 358, For, and 377, Against. Monday night’s announcements and confirmations brought 36 more total votes into play, but not enough to change the election’s outcome.
Newsom, who conducted the hearing, said “There were 24 provisional ballots in early and absentee from last Tuesday’s city election, and there were provisional ballots during the election itself. There remains one single outstanding ballot of an International citizen.”
Newsom said there were three challenged ballots, but that one one challenged was revoked, and the two remained challenged votes were eventually counted.
Newsom also said that four persons had votes that were not counted.
“These individuals were either not registered in Hempstead County or within the City of Hope or resided outside the city’s limits,” she said.
Two of the challenged voters were counted, based on what Newsom described as “history of voting address.”
There were 16 “Election Day” ballots that examined by the Commission, with 12 counted and 4 disqualified.
Separately, there were 24 provisional ballots as Absentee, and all were counted, Newsom said, based on 23 signed declarations and one individual, who presented proof of identification at the courthouse.
With the Special Election scheduled to be certified this Friday, July 20, it would appear that the governance debate in the City of Hope has been settled for now, and for at least another two years, according to one of the movement’s principals, Hope attorney Blake Montgomery.
Afterwards, Montgomery, no relation to current Hope Mayor Steve Montgomery, said “We had a small group of very dedicated volunteers that I could not thank enough for their work. We knew when this election was moved to July that it was going to be hard to get people to come out. That said, we never expected the turnout we got but it was still less than the May Primary.
“We can try this petition again in two years, but I can't commit to anything at this time. I would also like to thank all of our public supporters and voters who dared to dream of a better Hope,” he said
With a now apparent 11-vote difference, Hope will retain its City Manager/Board of Directors form of government for the foreseeable future, and Hope voters will next turn their attention to possible races in three of the city’s seven wards.
Seats up for election in 2018 are Ward 1, currently held by Mark Ross; Ward 6 currently held by Steve Montgomery, and Ward 7, currently held by Don Still; that is if opponents should happen to emerge to contest the incumbents, and if not, there will be no other local elections within Hope in November, even as other races like Hempstead County Judge and statewide races, like Governor, will be on the ballot.
The contested 2016 races were between Kiffenea Talley and Jay Kopecky in Ward 2 and Sharon Caldwell and Trevor Coffee in Ward 5, but in Ward 3, Reginald Easter was unchallenged and assumed the seat vacated when Willie Walker retired.
The general election is November 6.
Wade said that within the City of Hope that approximately 3,000 persons were on the books as registered to vote; in the May 22 primary, 910 Hope residents voted, while the July 10 special election had only 774 Hope residents participate.