Friday, March 1, 2019

New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

Rather than continue to amend his original bill, state Senator Trent Garner (R-27th, El Dorado) filed a new version of his legislation to shift up the date of the Arkansas presidential primary from May to the first Tuesday in March.

SB 445 was introduced on Tuesday, February 26 and the impetus behind the measure was to start with a clean slate and make some technical corrections to standardize the Arkansas election code. The new bill also moves the preferential primary from late May to the first Tuesday in March, but it makes the change permanent (something that was not the case in 2015 when the primary in the Natural state was similarly shifted but only temporarily). The legislation would permanently schedule the Arkansas consolidated primary for March in presidential election years and May in gubernatorial (midterm) years, while also allowing for school board elections to take place in either spot or during the November general election.

Garner in introducing the bill to the Senate State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee during a hearing on Thursday, February 28 made all the typical arguments for an earlier primary, focusing mainly on the potential attention the move to Super Tuesday would facilitate in the state and closed by saying that Governor Asa Hutchinson supported the shift. While there was some discussion among the committee members on the bill, most of it followed similar lines and was favorable. A representative for county clerks and elections administrators raised some red flags about the constant back and forth nature of the timing of Arkansas primaries in presidential years over time, but did not oppose the move.

After a brief hearing, the committee, on a voice vote with minimal dissent, signed off on the bill with a do pass recommendation. The measure now heads to the state Senate for consideration of the full chamber.

2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

3/19/19: On to the Governor: Super Tuesday Bill Passes Arkansas House

3/25/19: Arkansas Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

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