The rules of the political game for 2016 in Arkansas are now set.
Officials with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office have released the 2016 election calendar for the state, with some changes as well as setting an 18-month campaign schedule for candidates and pundits alike.
The party primary and judicial general election will be March 1, 2016 while the party runoff will be March 22, 2016.
The primary has traditionally been held during May of an election year. However, the state legislature approved a change last month during a special session to allow the state to participate in the so-called “SEC Primary.”
The general election will be Nov. 8, 2016 while the general election runoff for county and municipal races will be Nov. 29, 2016.
The schedule officially kicks off July 19 when non-partisan judicial candidates can begin circulating petitions to run for office.
Independent candidates can start circulating petitions Aug. 11, 2015 through Nov. 9, 2015, according to the calendar.
Another change involves judicial candidates.
Judicial candidates can file by petition from noon Sept. 10 until noon Sept. 17 at the Capitol in Little Rock, as well as by paying a filing fee from 3 p.m. Nov. 2 until 3 p.m. Nov. 9.
In addition to circuit judge races around the state, voters will also decide a half-dozen statewide judicial races.
Two of the races are for the state Supreme Court – Chief Justice Jim Hannah and Position 5 Justice Paul Danielson.
Danielson announced in May that he would not seek another eight-year term in office. Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home has said he will seek the seat held by Danielson. Hannah has not yet disclosed his plans.
There are also four Arkansas Court of Appeals seats up for grabs.
District 2, Position 2 Judge Cliff Hoofman and District 5 Judge Mike Kinard were appointed by former Gov. Mike Beebe and cannot run for office in 2016.
District 6 Judge Rita W. Gruber and District 7 Judge Waymond M. Brown are also on the ballot in 2016.
There are several federal and state races that will be on the March 1 primary ballot. The filing period for the primary will be from noon Nov. 2 until noon Nov. 9 at the Capitol.
Candidates for President will be on the ballot March 1.
Five members of the state’s congressional delegation – Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs – are expected to be on the ballot. No challengers have stepped forward at this time.
Also on the ballot are 100 members of the State House and 17 members of the state Senate.
So far, three state representatives – Reps. Prissy Hickerson, R-Texarkana, Nate Bell, I-Mena and Micah Neal, R-Springdale and one state senator – Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock – have announced they will not be seeking another term in office.
Early voting for the primary starts Feb. 15 and goes through Feb. 29 for the primary; and March 15-21 for the runoff, the calendar noted.
OTHER IMPORTANT DATES
The months of July, August and September 2016 will also be busy for election officials around the state.
The school board filing period runs from July 5 through July 12, while July 8 is the deadline to file petitions to place an initiated measure on the November general election ballot.
The municipal filing period for independents runs from July 29 until Aug. 19, while the municipal primary for cities with a city administrator is Aug. 9.
Also, individuals wanting to run for President as an independent must do so by Aug. 1, 2016 while the Secretary of State’s office must certify proposed constitutional amendments by Aug. 25, 2016.
Early voting for the Nov. 2016 general election will be from Oct. 24 through Nov. 7, while early voting for the runoff will be Nov. 22 through 28.
The 2016 school board election is also set for Sept. 20, while districts can also move their election date to Nov. 8.