Arkansas Remains Only Former Confederate State to Not Send Black Candidate to Congress

Joyce Elliott has conceded in the race for Congressional District 2, ending the state’s bid to send its first Black candidate to Congress.

Headshot of Joyce ElliottWith three Black candidates running for office in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, there was discussion that Arkansas would finally elect its first Black representative in Congress. The race for the state’s 2nd Congressional District gained national attention with pollsters predicting a competitive race between Democrat Joyce Elliott and the incumbent, Republican French Hill. During a press conference yesterday, Elliott announced she would concede the race.

“To my team and to my supporters, to everyone in Arkansas, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of this ride because it was something a lot of people did not think I should even get off the ground, yet we did,” Elliott said.

According to unofficial results from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office, State Senator Joyce Elliott earned 36,983 fewer votes than Congressman French Hill. Hill won reelection of his seat with nearly 56 percent of the vote to Elliott’s 44 percent.

During her formal announcement, the former teacher discussed trust in the democratic process.

“My campaign for Congress was one where plain reality was questioned,” Elliott said. “A picture of me standing with my students was manipulated to make it look like I was part of some fictitious riot. Basic tenets of my bipartisan record—funding roads, 911 and cancer research—were slandered and twisted.”

While she believes Arkansas did the right thing by allowing more people to vote absentee because of the pandemic, Elliott said election officials, specifically in Pulaski County, took intentional steps to undermine trust in democracy.

“I am a first-time absentee voter and I so wanted to trust that my vote would count, but intentional decisions were made by those in power to work against that,” Elliott said. “Instead of doing what every other county did and canvas absentee ballots before Election Day, Pulaski County chose to start late and leave thousands of absentee ballots uncanvassed until polls closed late last night. That could have been my ballot that was not counted. That could have been your ballot.”

According to KATV, the Pulaski County Election Commission disqualified at least 4,000 absentee ballots because they were missing information like addresses or birth dates. Historically, 5 to10 percent of absentee votes are disqualified for this reason.

In an interview with KUAR Public Radio, Pulaski County Election Commissioner Joshua Price said the counting of absentee ballots began before the polls closed Tuesday. He said they had 84 poll workers only processing absentee ballots since Oct. 19, but by law, the inner ballot envelope could not be opened until Election Day.

Joyce Elliott said she will finish this year and serving her last two years in the Arkansas Senate. She will be term limited at the end of 2022. In a social media post this morning, she also said she plans to work on building Democratic Party infrastructure to prepare and elect “good” folks from the bottom to top of the ballot.


This story has been updated to include comments from the Pulaski County Election Commissioner.