Another primary election shift has complications, including judicial elections | Arkansas Blog

Monday, February 11, 2019

Another primary election shift has complications, including judicial elections

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2019 at 7:57 AM

Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports this morning on Sen. Trent Garner's bill, apparently approved by the Republican Party, which means passage, to again move up the primary election in 2020 from May to March so Arkansas can join in the regional acclamation for renomination of Donald Trump. There are problems.

The primary was moved up in 2016 so Arkansas could join a regional presidential primary. Nobody much cared how Arkansas would vote (big for Trump it turned out) but the state got a few visits from presidential contenders. We can predict similarly small national interest in 2020, given our small number of electors and a scant reputation as a swing state.

The problems with an early election include a November filing period and two holiday seasons that distract attention from politics. The potential for winter weather is also a complication, though climate change seems to have alleviated that problem.

Here's another issue. The May primary is also when judges are elected. There are occasional runoffs that aren't held until the November general election. Moving that primary election to March would extend the runoff campaign season for judges — and their panhandling for cash and the extension of dark money advertising — by two months. Winter and holidays also would make it harder in the first primary to campaign for what are already often low-profile races at the county level

Based on a judge I talked with last week about this bill, it seems judicial candidates would prefer a May primary. There are going to be a high number of judgeships on the ballot in 2020 on account of retirements. Legislators, Trent Garner in particular, probably aren't much concerned about what judges might prefer, however.

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