Nonpartisan Primary Resolution Introduced In Arkansas Legislature

Arkansas State Senator Clarke Tucker (Little Rock) has introduced a state constitutional amendment that would implement a nonpartisan top-two primary system in Arkansas similar to the systems in place in California, Washington, and Alaska.

SJR 4 would replace a primary system that divides voters between a Republican and Democratic primary ballot with primaries in which all voters and candidates, regardless of party, participate on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters move on the general election.

"This system puts more power into the hands of the people by making sure all voters, not just primary voters, have a say in who their elected officials are.," tweeted Sen. Tucker.

Voters not affiliated with a political party can participate in Arkansas primaries under the current system. It bars participation from registered third party members and requires independent voters who participate to pick a side each election cycle, red or blue, and they are stuck with the candidates on that party's ballot.

Nonpartisan primaries give all registered voters the freedom to select any candidate from any party they want, as long as the candidate qualifies for the primary ballot -- giving them greater and more meaningful choice in the election process.

"This means that elected officials have to answer to each and every constituent, not just those voting in the primary," says Tucker.

The Arkansas resolution is modeled after top-two systems in Washington and California. Alaska's nonpartisan primary differs in that it advances the top four vote-getters and the winner of the election is decided in a general election that uses ranked choice voting.

Nonpartisan primaries are growing in popularity as a remedy to noncompetitive elections that offer voters little choice and zero accountability. Nevada voters took the first step to implementing a nonpartisan top-five primary with RCV by voting for the reforms in November. It was one of two elections needed to amend the state's constitution.

Other efforts on the legislative side and ballot referendum process have emerged in Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri -- to name just a handful of emerging or active campaigns.