by Rick Manning
As they have in the past, liberal billionaires John and Laura Arnold are once again scheming to throw their money around in other people’s states and cities to produce the far left results that they want. For years, the power couple has been on a mission “to change the country” and make things happen “by whatever means necessary.” This time, their target is Arkansas, and their goal is the passage of a state constitutional amendment to radically transform the state’s primaries and voting system.
Under current law, Arkansas has open primaries; any registered Arkansas voter can vote in either party’s primary. If no primary candidate receives a majority of the vote, then a runoff primary election is held. In the general election, the candidate with the most votes wins – as is the case in 48 other states.
Under the Arnold’s scheme, party primaries would end, and all candidates seeking a particular office would run together in a “jungle primary.” Republicans, Democrats, and Independents would all vote for the same pool of candidates. Out of this field, four candidates would advance to the general election. In that election, voters would rank the candidates according to their preference. If no candidate secured a majority of the vote after the first-choice votes were counted, the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes would be eliminated and the votes for that candidate would be reallocated to the remaining candidates based on the voters’ preferences. The vote-counting process would continue until a candidate won a majority.
So far, the Arnolds’ organization, Action Now Initiative, has dumped over $3 million into Arkansas, and these funds have been used to advance this effort as well as to change how Arkansas handles redistricting. In addition to the Arnolds, Hollywood celebrities support the jungle primary/ranked-choice amendment (through the organization Represent.Us).
This new electoral system would create a lot of work for voters to be able to cast an informed vote. With each major election, general election voters could literally have dozens of candidates to sift through: up to four Congressional candidates, up to four U.S. Senate candidates, up to four state representative candidates, up to four state senate candidates, up to four gubernatorial candidates, and up to 24 more candidates for the six other statewide offices. Billionaires, like the Arnolds, might have enough free time to vet dozens of candidates and rank them, but many average citizens do not.
Because some voters might not understand ranked-choice voting, they might continue to vote for their favorite candidate and not rank any of the others. If too many Republicans made this mistake, it could allow a Democrat to sneak into office. Conversely, even if a Republican won, it could be a very moderate one who simply managed to pick up the vast majority of Democrat votes.
If approved, the amendment would take effect next year and quickly require significant changes for local governments. For example, passage of the amendment would force county governments to buy new voting machines and completely overhaul their training for election officials. Unfortunately, these costs would be borne by state taxpayers and not by the out-of-state interests so determined to pass the amendment.
To be sure, it is unclear whether the ranked-choice amendment will make it to the ballot this year. First of all, the Secretary of State ruled that the petitions submitted in support of the amendment were insufficient. Secondly, the Board of Election Commissioners found the proposed ballot title for the amendment to be misleading and voted 5-1 against certifying it.
The current system of open party primaries followed by the general election is well-understood by voters and has worked just fine for Arkansas. There is no need to make a change to a new electoral system – especially not such a radical change as this is. It should be noted that no other state has a system such as the one described in this proposed amendment. So Arkansas would be the Arnolds’ guinea pig.
The Arnolds’ jungle primary/ranked-choice voting amendment is no minor tweak of the current system; it is an extreme, and completely unnecessary, overhaul of state election laws. This scheme is complicated and makes no sense – unless one is trying to confuse voters in hopes of electing liberals. If the measure makes it to the ballot, Arkansans should vote NO on the amendment and send the message to out-of-state billionaires and Hollywood celebrities that Arkansas cannot be bought.
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Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.
Photos “Laura Arnold” and “John Arnold” by Arnold Ventures.