Pine Bluff Ward 1 City Council candidate Joni Alexander, a Democrat, took a big lead when the results of early and absentee voting were reported Tuesday night and never looked back as she soundly defeated her challenger, Republican the Rev. Jesse Turner.
Complete but unofficial results were as follows:
Alexander: 2,440, or 87.21 percent
Turner: 358 for, or 12.79 percent
Alexander, a political newcomer who Turner had called a “novice” throughout the campaign, was victorious in a three-way Democratic primary in May, then came back three weeks later to knock off incumbent long-time council member Thelma Walker. Turner had no primary opposition.
She collected 1,274 votes from the early and absentee voting and another 1,166 from the polls Tuesday. Turner got 193 votes during early and absentee voting and another 165 on election day.
“It's been a long run but it's all worth it at this moment,” Alexander said after seeing the early voting results. The people screamed for change and they got it.”
Reminded that she would not be not only the only female on the council but also its youngest member, Alexander said, “My age doesn't define me. Neither does my gender. What defines me is my character and my professionalism.”
A former assistant to former Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, Alexander said one of the first things she wants to do is to try and educate citizens and get them more involved in city government.
“We need to see what the people want and how we can help them to achieve it,” she said, explaining that she wants to hear from the people not only in the First Ward but from throughout the city.
Reminded of Turner's name for her, Alexander replied with one sentence.
“I'm a novice no more,” she said.
Election Commission Secretary Stuart Soffer contacted The Commercial Tuesday night after the unofficial final results were printed to say that the commission had approximately 40-to-50 provisional ballots that had been issued to voters who showed up at the polls Tuesday without an identification, as required by law.
He said each of those people will be receiving a letter asking them to either submit a photo identification by return mail, or to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that they are in fact a registered voter.
“We want to err on the side of the voter,” Soffer said. “If they sign the affidavit, we will check with the county clerk, and if they are registered, we will count the ballot.”
Those letters will come with a self-stamped return envelope, and Soffer said anyone who receives one should either sign the affidavit or send a copy of a photo identification by return mail. The commission will meet Monday to review those, as well as another 30 to 35 provisional ballots.