A poll by the League of Women Voters shows strong voter support for proposed constitutional amendments to establish a non-partisan commission to draw legislative and congressional districts and the proposal to replace partisan primaries for state office with an open primary and runoffs decided by ranked-choice voting.
Problem: Secretary of State John Thurston has said both petition drives failed to gather the required number of valid signatures. He cited failure to comply with the strictures the legislature placed on paid canvassers (as a means of discouraging popular petition drives).
Both amendment campaigns are appealing Thurston’s finding to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The League said it hired Mercury Analytics to do the polling. It polled 600 people July 16-18.
The key findings:
The poll showed that 65% of voters support non-partisan redistricting, compared to 17% who oppose. That includes 72% of men and 57% of Republicans.
Voters support the open primaries proposal by more than 30 percentage points. Nearly three-fourths (71%) of independent voters support ending partisan primaries by establishing an open primary system where the top four vote-getters for each office advance to the general election.
The Republican Party is fighting both these measures. Under the current system, the Republican-controlled legislature draws congressional boundaries and a Republican-controlled state Board of Election Commissioners draws legislative boundaries. They also fear an open primary could position a non-Republican to make a runoff decided by ranked choice-voting. Republicans have formed a committee to fight these amendments should they make the ballot. It hasn’t yet disclosed financial backers.
Thurston, who’s disqualified these amendments, is a Republican.
“More than just signatures, this clearly demonstrates that Arkansas voters want more voice in the redistricting process and they want to vote for the candidate of their choice—no matter their party affiliation,” said Bonnie Miller of the League of Women Voters of Arkansas. “A dark money group is
trying to pressure the Secretary of State to eliminate their voice in the process. Their reasons are abundantly clear: if voters are allowed to have their say, these ballot measures will pass.”