Thursday, February 5, 2009

More on the Potential August Arkansas Primary

I left off the other day speculating that a post-convention, pre-general election primary was not the intent of legislators pushing an August primary in Arkansas. [Actually, in its amended form, SB 253 calls for a late July presidential preference primary, separate from the other primary contests to be conducted during the third week in August.] But why make this move? It isn't to influence the general election. The parties would likely move relatively quickly to quash such a move.

In reality, the move, like many in politics, is to counter the unintended consequences of a previous change. In November, Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment to allow the state legislature to meet annually instead of biennially. Traditionally, the Arkansas General Assembly has met in odd-numbered years only, handling the business of the state between January and May. There have been extra sessions and up until 2000, they were held during the same calendar year as the regular session (since 1987). Since 2000, though, four of the five general assemblies have held these extra sessions in even-numbered years. The amendment basically institutionalizes the extra session, splitting the duties of the legislature into a regular session in odd-numbered years and a session focused on appropriations only in even-numbered years.

What does that have to do with the primary election?

A good question. Whether State Sen. Bill Pritchard (also one of the sponsors of the original amendment) moves forward with proposing a bill to switch the session alignment (regular session in even-numbered years and budget session in odd-numbered years), the May primary for state legislative positions will occur within a couple of weeks of the end of the one of the legislative sessions. That leaves only a small window of time for incumbents to campaign for the election. On top of that, legislators have traditionally eschewed fundraising (due to a self-imposed rule) activities during sessions and for 30 days before and after them. That obviously encompasses the primaries in this case and poses a problem for state legislative incumbents. [Their challengers aren't faced with the same problem.]

The amendment opened up a can of worms in other words. SB 253 is seeking to address the problems state legislators are potentially going to face, but in tandem with the likely repeal of the February presidential primary, that means there are issues with delegate allocation in 2012. And this doesn't even take into account the issues (the strain of a non-stop blitz of work from the summer through the general election in November) local election board officials have with this proposal.

While a post-convention primary seems to have been averted with addition of an amendment for a late July primary for presidential preference, this contest would likely fall outside of the window established by the parties.

Recent Posts:
1980 Presidential Primary Calendar

Arkansas Senate Unanimously Passes Primary Bill

Arkansas Senate Slated to Vote on 2012 Presidential Primary Today

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