Republicans have formed a committee to fight a couple of ballot proposals intended to reduce partisan influence in state government.
Arkansans for Transparency has organized to fight two petition drives that have submitted signatures, still to be validated, for constitutional amendments.
One would put legislative and congressional redistricting under control of a non-partisan commission. Now a partisan-controlled commission does legislative districting and the Republican-controlled legislature controls congressional districts.
Another would end partisan primaries for most state offices and have all candidates appear on the same primary ballot. The top four finishers would compete in a general election day runoff through ranked-choice voting.
Republicans naturally like things as they are. The committee is chaired by Jonelle Fulmer of Fort Smith, a Republican national committeewoman, and Washington County Judge Joseph Wood, a Republican. Will Rockefeller, son of the late lieutenant governor, is secretary. Rett Hatcher, another Hutchinson administration veteran, is treasurer. The group has not made any financial disclosures yet.
They’ve hired a firm staffed by former Asa Hutchinson insiders and campaigners to tout their effort. A release says the proposals, being led in part by Little Rock lawyer David Couch and funded with help from a progressive Texas nonprofit, would “grossly manipulate Arkansas’s election process.” Republicans prefer to do the manipulating.
The statement claims the amendments are being championed by “out-of-state interest as a way of stealing elections.” The amendment drives are led by Arkansans and were put on the ballot by signatures of registered Arkansas voters. If they become law, it will be by popular vote of Arkansas citizens.
In all their cliched phrases, the Republican committee doesn’t offer any specifics of how elections could be manipulated or stolen through these ideas or how the measures don’t arise from Arkansas interests, apart from the transparently disclosed financial support.
I’ve asked a spokesman for the committee if the group will promise not to accept out-of-state money, such as from the Republican National Committee, to fight the measures.