09.08.2020 0

Meddling liberal billionaires defeated in push to buy Arkansas

By Richard McCarty

John and Laura Arnold, the liberal, out-of-state billionaires meddling in Arkansas politics, have been defeated. They supported a ballot measure campaign run by an organization called Open Primaries Arkansas to radically change the way that most state and federal candidates are elected there.

Under the Arnolds’ scheme, all state executive and legislative candidates and all Congressional candidates, regardless of party, would run together in a jungle primary, and the top four vote-getters would advance to the general election. In other words, there would no longer be Republican or Democrat primaries, and there would be no guarantee that a single Republican or Democrat would make it to the general election. So some voters might have to choose between four Republicans while other voters might have to choose between four Democrats.

The Arnolds’ scheme would greatly inconvenience voters. In gubernatorial years, there are seven statewide offices on the ballot. If there were four candidates for each of those offices, along with four candidates for each of the legislative races, general election voters would have dozens of candidates to research. As you can imagine, conducting proper research on the backgrounds and policies of each of these candidates would be a time-consuming task – one which many voters might not have the time, interest, or ability to undertake. Furthermore, under the Arnolds’ scheme, the general election would be decided using ranked-choice voting; in ranked-choice voting systems, voters rank their choices from most to least favorable. Of course, ranking multiple candidates in multiple races – rather than voting for just one candidate in each – would also take more time, which could lead to longer lines at the polls on Election Day.

The Arnolds’ scheme failed because Open Primaries Arkansas did not follow the law. Under Arkansas law, paid canvassers who collect signatures for ballot measures must pass background checks within 30 days prior to the start of their signature collection; and the campaign must certify to the Arkansas Secretary of State that each of their canvassers has passed the background check. If these conditions are not met, then the signatures that the canvassers collect are not valid. Instead of complying with the law, Open Primaries Arkansas merely informed the Secretary of State that background checks had been “acquired” for each of the canvassers. The Secretary of State noted this problem and determined that the campaign had failed to collect enough valid signatures due to this issue, which meant that the proposed ballot measure would not appear on the November ballot.

Rather than admit that they had failed to follow the law and admit defeat, Open Primaries Arkansas filed a lawsuit. The Arkansas Supreme Court appointed a special master to investigate; he issued a report last month. Last week, after reviewing the special master’s report, the court ruled 6-1 that Open Primaries Arkansas had not complied with the law regarding background checks for its canvassers. Consequently, the signatures are invalid, and the measure will not appear on the ballot this fall.

The Arnolds’ loss is a win for Arkansas, and now state residents will not be used as guinea pigs in some random billionaires’ experiment. Voters will not have a new and untested electoral system thrust upon them without adequate voter education or proper consideration. Nor will voters be confused with a bewildering array of candidates to research and then rank on Election Day. For good reason, no state uses the confusing and complicated system pushed by the Arnolds and Open Primaries Arkansas, and it should remain that way.

Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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