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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


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The 91st General Assembly’s impact on election laws


the General Assembly were not new or unique, but rather common, recurring issues of past sessions. Primary election and filing period dates, special election consolidation, voter identification, and state funding for new voting equipment all garnered the attention of the legislature in the 2017 General Session.


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Concerning the primary election dates in Arkansas, Act 4 of the Tird Extraordinary Session of 2015 was passed with a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2016. Te act moved the Arkansas preferential primary date from its usual date in May up to the date commonly known as the “SEC Primary” date or “Super Tuesday,” March 1, 2016. Tis allowed Arkan- sas to participate in a heav- ily populated Republican presidential primary elec- tion, with 12 candidates filing for the Republican presidential primary race, along with six Democrats. Changing the preferential primary date also necessar- ily changed the filing pe- riod for all candidates run-


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ning for office, including county offices, from the previous filing period ending on the first day of March all the way up to November of the year preceding the primary election. Tis change was met with mixed reviews by candidates, with some enjoying the filing fees and national attention that Arkansas received by having more presidential can- didates register; however, many local candidates were dis- pleased with the November filing period, effectively forcing them to begin their campaigns around the holiday season. Tere were two bills filed this session to continue the recent March primary election date and November filing period; however, neither bill passed. Terefore, absent some action of the legislature in a special session, the 2018 preferential primary date will revert back to the law as it was before Act 4 passed, with the primary election presumably being held on May 22, 2018, and the candidates’ one-week filing pe- riod ending on the first day of March. Another issue returning this session from previous years


COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


here were plenty of hot topics in the 2017 General Session of the 91st General Assembly, and election laws were no exception. Most of the election issues legislators brought before


Legal Corner


ost of the election issues legislators brought before the General Assembly


were not new or unique, but rather revisited common, recurring issues of past sessions.


was the move to consolidate school elections and other special elections into the primary and general election dates. While ef- forts to consolidate all special elec- tions failed this session, Act 910 of 2017 passed. Act 910, effective Jan. 1, 2018, will require all an- nual school elections, meaning all school board races, but excluding millage elections, to be held on the primary or general election date in even-numbered years, or the corresponding dates in odd-numbered years. Pursuant to Act 910, no later than the first date of the candidate filing period in 2018 and going forward, each school district must notify its respective county clerk(s) if it will choose to hold its annual school board


LINDSEY BAILEY General Counsel


elections on the


primary or general elec- tion date. Te 2017 school board elections will not be impacted.


Te 2017 General Ses- sion also brought back an- other familiar issue in the form of two separate voter identification initiatives. In


October 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down Act 595 of 2013, which had required persons voting both in person and by absentee ballot to provide poll workers with proper identification before being allowed to cast a vote. In a unanimous decision of the court, three of the justices declared the act unconstitutional in a concurring opinion solely because it did not reach two-thirds threshold in each chamber of the General Assembly as required by the Arkan- sas Constitution. Alternatively, the court’s majority opinion authored by Justice Donald Corbin declared the law uncon- stitutionally violated Arkansas citizens’ right to vote because it required more of a registered voter than is required by the Arkansas Constitution: to be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citi- zen, an Arkansas resident, and registered to vote. Tere were two attempts this session to reinstate the voter identification requirements struck down by the court in


See “ELECTIONS” on Page 20 >>> 19


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