Coronavirus Fears and the Benton County Legislative Runoff Election
On March 31, two primary runoff elections were held for two state legislative seats. Originally, many people expected the turnout to be low, considering that early voting for that election occurred over spring break in Benton County. But then, the coronavirus arrived in Arkansas, closed the schools, and kept everybody at home. The Benton County Clerk’s Office, citing concerns for public safety, officially urged primary election voters to request an absentee ballot for the runoff election. The clerk also took extraordinary measures to sanitize surfaces and ensure social distancing at polling sites. The result was a record number of absentee ballots requested for the runoff election and a higher than anticipated turnout at the polls on Election Day.
An Election Night for Up-and-Comers
Dr. Delia Haak overtook Scott Richardson to win the State Representative race in District 91. The longtime Benton County resident turned the tables and flipped the percentages on Richardson, who had come in first with a margin of more than 300 votes in the March 3 primary election. By adopting an early strategy that anticipated the early voting, which was originally going to take place during spring break, Haak won the runoff with 54% of the vote. She utilized friends and family to target absentee voters and placed a renewed emphasis on her social media strategy. It’s a strategy that worked because of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic that kept a lot of people home during the early-voting period. Haak cruised to the lead in the early and absentee ballots and stayed ahead of Richardson the rest of the night.Representative Jana Della Rosa lost her bid for re-election to Kendon Underwood, who had originally challenged her in 2018 and lost by just three votes. Underwood was back again this election and successfully forced Della Rosa into a runoff this time. Representative Della Rosa was a reliable vote for the Northwest Arkansas business community in the last session. Her support for our priority issues of workforce education, highway funding, and E-Fairness legislation has been beneficial to the passage of important legislation for the region.
Can COVID-19 Affect Voting Again this Fall?
The primary runoff election in Benton County was an excellent test of conducting an election during a pandemic. Absentee ballots made the difference in the election outcomes, and the excellent safety measures taken for voters by the county clerk made it possible for people to vote safely on Election Day. Hopefully, Coronavirus will not be a factor in the November General Election, but if it is, the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce urges you to exercise safety and caution by voting absentee or voting during the early voting period.
Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce SVP of Government Affairs Jon Moran provides education and advocacy on the priorities of Chamber businesses and membership to the proper government body. The role of the Government Affairs Division at the Chamber is to bring focus to those issues that can have a positive influence on business and to those issues that can be costly and unfriendly, as well as quality-of-life issues. The Government Affairs Division at the Chamber is the communication program between business and government. Email Jon here.