Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Next week's primary elections in Arkansas will come with change, if not many fireworks.
That change is a technical one, forced when the Arkansas Supreme Court recently decided the state's controversial voter identification law should be enforced this time around.
The voter-ID law, enacted last year by the Legislature, requires voters to show government-issued identification to poll workers to ensure their votes are counted.
A Pulaski County circuit judge found the law, which only took effect in August, unconstitutional just a couple of weeks back with the primary elections looming.
Secretary of State Mark Martin appealed the ruling, asking the Supreme Court to stay the lower court decision until after the upcoming election.
The underlying question -- the constitutionality of the voter-ID requirement -- is far from resolved.
That controversial question is still being litigated, but the immediate decision means voters will need to be prepared to provide the required identification for this election or risk not having their votes counted.
If you've let this election slip up on you, there's a convenient way to review your individual ballot before election day.
Go online to voterview.org. Provide the most basic information: the county you live in, your name and date of birth.
The resultant search will confirm your voter registration and offer you three sample ballots. One is for the Republican primary, another for the Democratic and a third nonpartisan. All of the races for the precinct in which you are registered will be displayed. (Nonpartisan elections appear on all three ballots.)
Regardless of which ballot they choose, all Arkansas voters will face at least one statewide race -- a three-person nonpartisan contest for the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Republican and Democratic voters will each see statewide primaries for governor setting up November general elections.
Beyond that, individual ballots may vary greatly depending on whether there are district or county contests for party nominations or perhaps a nonpartisan local judicial race, school board election or millage issue.
Use the web site to determine exactly what you'll see on your ballot, then prepare to vote early or at the polls on Tuesday.
While there are few statewide races on any of the ballots Tuesday, the ones that are on there are consequential.
Arkansas will elect, or re-elect, all of its statehouse officials as well as one justice of the Supreme Court this year.
Much of the action will come in the fall, but there are statewide primary contests for that court seat, for governor and for secretary of the state.
Far and away the most divisive of this year's statewide primary elections is that nonpartisan, three-person contest for the Supreme Court among a sitting justice, Courtney Goodson, and two challengers, Kenneth Hixson and David Sterling.
If none of the three wins a majority of the primary vote, a runoff between the top two finishers will decide the election in November.
In the governor's race, Republican Asa Hutchinson, the incumbent, is heavily favored against a flamboyant challenger, Jan Morgan, who has tried to out-conservative Hutchinson in his re-election bid.
On the Democrat side, the governor's race is between Jared Henderson and Leticia Sanders. Yet another gubernatorial candidate, Libertarian Mark West awaits the party nominees in November.
Republicans will also choose a nominee on Tuesday for one other statehouse office. The current secretary of state, Mark Martin, is term-limited. Two Republicans -- Trevor Drown and John Thurston -- seek to replace Martin, as do Democrat Susan Inman and Libertarian Christopher Olson.
All in all, it has been a rather lackluster campaign season for state-level offices.
What's more, only one of the state's congressional districts features a race that even remotely suggests the sort of midterm challenge being staged in other parts of the nation.
It is in the state's Second Congressional District, the Central Arkansas district where incumbent Rep. French Hill, who escaped a Republican primary opponent, will face the winner of a four-way Democratic faceoff.
The Democrats who will duke it out on Tuesday are Gwen Combs, Jonathan Dunkley, Paul Spencer and Clarke Tucker. Tucker is the Democrat favored to win the nomination and face Hill and Libertarian Joe Ryne Swafford in November.
The three other incumbent congressmen from Arkansas, all Republicans, face challenge in either their party primary or the general election or both. None of those contests has gotten any of the buzz that the Second District race has.
Incumbent Reps. Steve Womack in the Third District and Bruce Westerman in the Fourth District both face Republican challengers for their party nomination. Robb Ryerse is taking on Womack and Randy Caldwell wants to replace Westerman.
Democratic, Libertarian, independent and write-in candidates await the Republican nominee in November.
Altogether, that makes 22 people seeking the four congressional seats.
With early voting already underway, the decision-making has begun and will continue through Tuesday's vote and eventually the general election.
There is time yet to prepare and to vote.
Commentary on 05/16/2018
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