A handful of bills working through General Assembly committees could change how and when voters participate in primary, special and general elections, officials said last week. One bill would lump all special and school district elections to either May or November instead of throughout the year. Another would push the presidential candidate primaries back two months into March. A third bill would cut down early voting from two weeks before an election to just one. Benton and Washington county election officials said the proposals could make elections more difficult to hold and could confuse voters. “We want to do the best job that we possibly can,” said Russell Anzalone, chairman of the Benton County Election Commission. “To us, the commissioners, it’s all about the voter.”
The first proposal, House Bill 1422, would require school elections to be part of the general elections, while some special elections would be clumped with either the May primary or general elections. School board elections are held in September, while special elections can be held throughout the year.
State Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, didn’t return multiple calls last week, but the bill says it’s intended to “promote voter turnout.” Participation in special and school elections is notoriously low, which has been blamed partly on their taking place when voter interest has faded or has yet to build.
“We have hardly anybody ever show up for school board elections,” said Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, who’s sponsoring the bill in the Senate. “It’s becoming increasingly important that folks have a voice and get involved.”