- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

LITTLE ROCK Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor in an election temporarily scrambled by a last-minute legal challenge, ousted incumbent Republican Tim Hutchinson for U.S. Senate yesterday.
While the Republican senator was defeated by Mr. Pryor, the state's attorney general, Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee won his second term in office.
With approximately 68 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Pryor led by 53 prcent to 47 percent, and Mr. Huckabee was at 54 percent to 46 percent over Democrat challenger Jimmie Lou Fisher.
But it was the double-whammy legal skirmishing that stole the show last night.
At 7:19 p.m., 11 minutes before the state's polls were scheduled to close, a county judge signed an injunction that ordered all precincts in Pulaski County to remain open an extra 90 minutes.
Democrat Party lawyers had filed the injunction motion, claiming that many voters had been "disenfranchised" because several precincts had run out of ballots.
Pulaski County usually amounts to about one-eighth or more of the state's entire vote tally.
But as Republicans complained of "changing the rules in the middle of the game," their lawyers went to the state Supreme Court and after an unusual conference call with court members, the earlier edict to allow voting to continue until 9 p.m. was overturned.
Votes which had been cast after 7:30 were to be excluded, according to the Supreme Court. But no one could explain exactly how poll workers could determine exactly who voted exactly when.
One county election commission member, Sally Stephens, suggested that the Democrats were still urging voters to vote and telling them the polls would be open later.
She said her husband had received at least two telephone calls at home, pre-recorded from Democratic workers, intimating that the polls would be open later than usual and that they should get out and vote."
Ron Oliver, state Democrat chairman, said later "we felt we were right."
"Several hundred people were disenfranchised in Pulaski County today," he added. "We tried to remedy that. I'll go back and visit with our attorneys and see what the next step is."
Both parties complained about the county elections operation here.
Prosecuting attorney Larry Jegley said that while last night's situation "wouldn't make much difference either way," he planned to convene a grand jury to deal with various voter fraud inequities or accusations.
"The public confidence has been undermined," he said.
In congressional races, three Democrat incumbents, Marion Berry, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross, won easily.
While Mr. Huckabee recovered after watching his double-digit poll lead turn into nail biter, his wife, Janet, lost by a wide margin to Charlie Daniels for secretary of state.

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