Republican Rep. Jim Sorvillo of Little Rock has gone back to court to prevent Democrat Ashley Hudson from taking his seat in the Arkansas House.
She’s been certified the winner of their election by 24 votes and has begun participating in organizational activities for the session that begins in January.
Sorvillo sued to stop certification of the election and to force a new election, but lost an injunction bid before Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen and then dropped an appeal of that decision after the vote was certified. Since then, he’s filed a claim with the state Claims Commission asking it to recommend to the House that Hudson not be seated and a new election held.
Sorvillo’s complaint rests primarily on the inclusion of up to 32 disqualified absentee ballots in the vote total. That’s bigger than the margin of victory. Hudson has responded that the ballots may have been improperly disqualified and said the actual count might have been 27 erroneously qualified ballots. Hudson also has a motion pending for dismissal for the claim arguing that the Constitution gives no jurisdiction to the commission, though a statute does. Another hearing is set at Claims on Dec. 22.
Sorvillo’s new suit, which was assigned to Judge Mackie Pierce, asks that the governor and secretary of state be prohibited from issuing a commission for Hudson to serve until the Claims Commission proceeding is completed and the House reaches a decision.
John Moritz, who first reported the lawsuit for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, said Sorvillo’s attorney, AJ Kelly, declined to explain why he had filed another lawsuit after voluntarily dropping the first one.
A guess would be that there might be something to Hudson’s argument that the Claims Commission can’t be given any role in the case when the Constitution says the House is the sole arbiter of its membership. If a certified candidate gets commissioned and seated, I think it would be harder for the House to undertake an investigation of the election. Hudson has argued there should be a full audit of all votes cast in the county, including the many disqualified absentee ballots, some disqualified for minor technical reasons.