The debate over partisan vs. nonpartisan judicial elections continues: now an Arkansas legislator wants an end to nonpartisan races and a return to partisan ones

This is proving to be an unprecedented year in terms of the number of efforts to either switch from partisan to nonpartisan judicial elections or vice versa. See here and here. Now we can add Arkansas to the list.

In 2000, Arkansas voters approved Amendment 80, which effectively rewrote the state’s judiciary article. A key provision (Sections 17 & 18) in Amendment 80 required all judicial race to be nonpartisan and gave an option to eventually switch from nonpartisan election to merit/commission based selection.

HJR 1006
would strike the word “nonpartisan” in Sections 17 & 18 and replace with “partisan”.

The move comes amid controversy over the state’s judiciary. In the last session, the legislature sent to the ballot a proposal (Issue 1, discussed here) that would have changed tort laws in the state and given the legislature power over court rulemaking (something Amendment 80 gave exclusively to the state supreme court). The supreme court removed the proposal from the ballot, arguing it violated provisions of the state’s constitution regarding what the legislature could and could not put before voters. Almost immediately thereafter efforts were made to stymie the judiciary’s budget, with legislators tweeting that “there will be consequences, starting with [the court’s] budget” for the decision.

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