Monday, March 2, 2015

County Elections Officials in Arkansas Mostly Supportive of SEC Primary Move

FHQ has mentioned more than once that moving the Arkansas presidential primary up from May to the SEC primary date in March would be more difficult than other southern states seeking to join the regional primary.1

Any resistance that does exist to SB 389 does not seem to extend to those -- in the Arkansas county Boards of Elections -- who will be tasked with administering the proposed March 1 primary election in 2016 nor to state legislators. At least in the populous far northwestern corner of the Natural state, there is no real fervent opposition to joining the SEC primary.

The most obstruction to the SEC primary move Dan Holtmeyer at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette could find had more to do with certifying candidates over Christmas than the March primary itself.
[Washington County election coordinator Jennifer] Price said the primary itself wouldn't be a problem; her concern is it would push candidate certification and ballot draws 75 days before the primary, or into the holidays in late December, which could be more difficult with fewer election workers around.  
"People kind of disappear over Christmas," Price said. She suggested allowing ballot draws and other requirements to take place in early December.
Even the area state senator who sponsored legislation in the state House in 2009 to eliminate the separate presidential primary election and move it back to the May primary is open to supporting the shift to March. According to Holtmeyer, that support comes with something of a contingency:
"We quickly went to the back burner [in 2008] because it didn't matter," said [State Senator Jon] Woods, who led the effort in the House to return the primary to May in 2009 and is part of the Senate committee that will consider SB 389. He said he might support moving primaries if local races are moved as well, but for now, "I'm not sure I'm really sold on it." [Emphasis FHQ's]
Of course, moving all the primaries to March would mean that the primaries for state legislators would overlap with the legislative session, something that has been frowned on in Arkansas in the past. That has been another impediment to primary movement in Arkansas.

1 The snag is a function of the resistance to moving the consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- from the typical May position to March or facing the alternative of creating and funding a new and separate election for the presidential primary.

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