SOURCE: Booneville Democrat –

Although they were not counted because of an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling, a majority of voters in west central Arkansas, including Logan County voted against Issue 1 in the Nov. 6 midterm election.

According to results released upon request from the Times Record and Arkansas Freedom of Information Act requests by Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen, the tort-reform measure that was deemed unconstitutional after being referred by the Arkansas Legislature would have failed in Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Scott and Sebastian counties, as well as Logan. Results were not available from Polk County.

Logan County Clerk Peggy Fitzgerald recorded 2,636 votes against Issue 1 and 2,009 for, according to McCutchen’s FOIA request. Fitzgerald told the Times Record Tuesday the votes were not tabulated because of the court order.

Both opponents and proponents of Issue 1 wanted the votes counted to settle the issue that had been mired in controversy. A lawsuit challenged the issue as unconstitutional because it did not pass the “single subject” rule. A circuit judge rule in favor of it and ordered the Secretary of State’s Office to not count the votes. The state Supreme Court upheld the ruling after proponents appealed the ruling.

McCutchen said he had heard of some counties, like Union County in south Arkansas, having more votes in favor of Issue 1. McCutchen supported the Family Council Action Committee, one of several groups against Issue 1 because it “put a price tag on human life.”

Jerry Cox of the Family Council Action Committee said Wednesday in a phone interview he expected some members of the Arkansas Legislature to return this next session in January with proposals on laws that would make it easier for businesses such as nursing homes to require a person to waive their right to a jury trial for care at a nursing home.

“It’s encouraging the totals indicate Issue 1 would’ve been defeated,” Cox said. “It’s consistent with what we thought, and not surprising that numbers show it would’ve been defeated.

Carl Vogelphol, campaign manager for Issue 1 proponent Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, said Wednesday in a phone interview it was hard to know if the issue would have passed or not.

“Fifty percent of our communication budget was planned for the last 21 days,” Vogelpohl said. “We were seeing internal data when the electorate was educated they would’ve voted for it.”

Vogelpohl said he did not have an explanation for it, but his camp was tracking a “strong correlation between Issue 1 and the casino amendment.” The casino amendment passed.

Both Cox and Vogelpohl likened the court order to stopping a football game in the third quarter. Finding middle ground on tort reform in the state may prove just as challenging as an Arkansas Razorback football game. Vogelpohl questioned whether tort reform should even be a constitutional issue when some things could be changed by statute, and called for an earlier deadline for the courts to issue a ruling before election.