Sen. Joyce Elliott reflects on long legislative career, new voter engagement endeavor

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 533 views 

State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, hasn’t officially left the Arkansas State Senate yet due to term limits, but she understands her time there is drawing near. When the fiscal session concluded earlier this month, she likely cast her last vote as a lawmaker.

“It was emotional, but it was emotional in a good way. Well, one thing it was not sad. I thought it might be sad that last time, but it was emotional in that it’s been such a privilege,” Elliott said.

“I think that we don’t think about enough as a privilege that on any given day only 135 of us out of a bit over 3 million people get to serve in that kind of position. And the other thing I think that made it emotional, just thinking about all of the things that could have been as well, that just did not work out,” she added.

Elliott said she balances that thought with issues that did work out, such as expanded health care coverage and improving education. First elected to the Arkansas House in 2000, she served three terms in that chamber before being elected to the State Senate in 2008.

She recently launched a new nonprofit called Get Loud Arkansas! Its aim is to encourage more civic engagement from voters. It will encourage voter registration and efforts to influence public policy, much like a Georgia initiative led by that state’s former Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Stacey Abrams. Elliott is fine with the Abrams comparison.

“I am absolutely channeling my inner Stacey Abrams because that’s how people need to understand this. I just noticed over the years, we had a lower percentage of people vote in 2020 than we did in 2018. And I know we are never going to be as strong as we need to be until we get to a point that more people are participating in the process,” she said. “Seeing what happened in Georgia over a 10-to-13 year period, that’s a large state, and Arkansas is a small state, and a state where we voted a lower percentage than any other state in the country in 2020.”

“We have very good people running for office. And I thought, ‘I’m going to do something with the rest of my life. I’m going to do something the next 10 years, and there’s nothing more important to me at this point to do with my life than to get Arkansans involved in civic engagement,” Elliott said.

Though Elliott is term-limited and in her early 70’s, there may always be speculation that she could run for another office again. She twice ran for U.S. Congress. Elliott says she’s pretty certain that Get Loud Arkansas! will anchor her political efforts in the future. When asked if she’s done running for political office, she said:

“Yes, I am. There are really good people running for office and there have been over the years. As someone said the other day, ‘Never say never.’ I am saying ‘no.’ I have no intention of running for another office. I think this is a ‘never,’ but I will be careful about it,” she said.

You can watch Elliott’s full interview in the video below.