It has been more than a week since the Nov. 8 election, but vote totals from Phillips County are still not available as the secretary of state's office reported that county election officials have stopped responding to repeated requests for results.
While the Arkansas secretary of state's website publishes detailed vote total information by precinct for every county during each election cycle, as of Wednesday, no totals have been posted for Phillips County for the most recent election.
Kevin Neihause, spokesman for the secretary of state, confirmed Wednesday that the office hadn't received any election results from Phillips County.
"The deadline to certify is 15 days after the general election," he said. "However they are also required to post vote totals the night of the election, and they never did that."
Neihause said he isn't sure what is occurring in the county, which has more than 9,000 registered voters.
"Their election coordinator has stopped communicating with us," he said. "We have tried to assist and even had someone from the State Board of Election Commissioners go over to assist."
Attempts to contact Cal Woodridge, the Phillips County election coordinator, and other county election commissioners were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Phillips County Clerk Linda Winfield told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she didn't have any information on election results and forwarded those questions to the election coordinator.
Martin Rawls, who is running for Phillips County justice of the peace for District 8 and who claimed victory on Wednesday, said he has been trying to get information on voter results for the past week.
"They also didn't put results on a polling site door when closed and had trouble finding it," Rawls said.
State Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville, on Wednesday released a letter he sent to Phillips County Judge Clark Hall regarding the delay in reporting election results to the secretary of state.
"I write to you to express my concern over the reporting of votes from the 2022 General Election in Phillips County. The speed with which the votes were counted and reported to the Arkansas Secretary of State's office is troubling," he said. "I am inclined to ask Joint Performance Review to conduct an investigation; however, I would first like to request from you an explanation of the issues that may have been encountered in your county leading to the delay."
Attempts to contact Hall were unsuccessful, as his office manager said he would be out of the office until probably Monday.
Last month, the state Board of Election Commissioners decided to send election monitors to Lee and Phillips counties in response to a request for election monitors, said board Director Daniel Shults.
Schults told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that election monitors were in Phillips County until Nov. 10 providing assistance due to some challenges that arose during the election process, including ballots being printed in a way that made them unscannable by election machines.
"Some issues occurred during the setup of the election that caused some challenges when it comes to counting votes," he said. "Fortunately, there weren't any issues for voters, it was just the ballots were produced in a certain way that they couldn't be scanned into the tabulator."
Schults said that when board staff left, the only thing left to count were the provisional ballots, and that the results were announced to those in the room on Election Night.
"I know this happened because I explicitly told them to do it, but the available absentee and election day results were released to the room on Election Night," he said. "I am not sure how they have been made available since but they have been counted."
Schults said from their observations, the reporting delay is not an issue of voter fraud or vote tampering, but has something to do with the county just not uploading the information.
"This not a counting issue, just an uploading information issue," he said.
Schults said that from his understanding, all or a large majority of the votes have been totaled and the main issue is that Phillips County has been unable to upload the results to the secretary of state's website.
"But the unofficial results are available in the county, just not on the website," he said. "When it comes to uploading unofficial results to the website, that is not something we get involved with. But we did get involved with the ballot counting to make sure it was done correctly by law."
Schults said the finale vote totals are due to the state by Wednesday.
Rawls, who is the Republican Party chair for Phillips County, said the last results he had seen showed he was winning, but that is only the totals from Election Day and he had to go to every polling site to figure it out.
"We have no absentee results and no provisional results," he said Wednesday. "They haven't posted them anywhere to my knowledge. People have asked and they won't give them. I asked myself for House District 62 numbers and was told they were still working on them."
Schults said the risk of people being confused about vote totals is the reason why results are uploaded to the secretary of state's website.
"It creates a challenge of how to disseminate information after it's made known on election night," he said.
Rawls said fixing Phillips County's election issues will be a priority if he's elected.
"When I join the Quorum Court in January, getting this fixed before the 2024 election will be a major priority of mine," he said. "We need to review the current process of preparing for elections and establishing new guidelines. We cannot expect voters to be enthusiastic about the election process when it is taking this long to see results."
Schults said the state Board of Election Commissioners are committed to providing any and all assistance they can to prevent another situation like what occurred in Phillips County.
"We communicated with the local folks that we want to work hard with y'all so we don't have a repeat of this," he said. "We want to prevent it moving forward."