Open primary issue may be on Arkansas ballot in November

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 2,730 views 

Open primaries, rank voting, or whatever you want to call it, there may be a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to change Arkansas’ election process.

Open Primaries Arkansas, a ballot question committee, that has been collecting signatures for the initiative says it will submit its petitions to the Arkansas Secretary of State on Monday, July 6.

Any group seeking to add a proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot this year must collect 89,151 valid signatures from registered voters, or 10% of the number of voters in the 2018 governor’s race. The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the ability of petition gatherers to collect signatures.

The petitions were due July 3, but due to that date being recognized as a state holiday, Monday, July 6 is the due date for delivery of signatures to the capitol.

The Open Primaries proposal would eliminate separate party primary elections where voters choose a ballot based on political preference. Instead, one ballot would contain all candidates of all party persuasions for an office and the top four vote-getters would advance to a general election. There would be no runoff elections, which typically have light turnout.

The offices affected by the proposal include all Congressional and Senate seats, statewide constitutional offices, and members of the General Assembly. U.S. President would be excluded, according to the amendment draft.

The top four vote-getters in the primary would be on the ballot in November. Voters would rank their choices of the four candidates. If one candidate gets a majority, he or she would be declared the winner. If one of the four candidates does not get a majority, then the last place finisher would be eliminated and the second choice votes for that candidate would be distributed to the field. If that recounting does not produce a majority winner, then the process continues again with the third place finisher.

If approved by voters in November, this new law would go into effect Janunary 1, 2021.

Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, is listed on the group’s statement of organization as the chairman of Open Primaries of Arkansas. Douglas did not seek re-election to the state legislature in 2020.

Other officers include Cale Turner of Little Rock, who is listed as treasurer, and Sam Sicard of Fort Smith, who is listed as director.

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