The primaries have come and (almost) gone, preparing us for the big election in November. Although it’s an off-year, it actually means more to Arkansas voters than those where the president is elected. We will be choosing a new governor, a new lieutenant governor, a new attorney general among other positions. Locally, we will be choosing a new county judge and a new county clerk, and we will be deciding if we want new representatives for us in the state legislature.
Although turnout for the primaries and judge races in May was higher than previous elections, it was still woefully low, especially when considering how important those races were. As a newspaper, we felt obliged to provide as much information about the candidates as possible, allowing everyone who announced for office to have a front page story and be featured in our election guide. A future guide will most likely show up in October.
We also ran sample ballots in our edition the weekend before the election, showing voters what they would be seeing when they went inside the voting booth. Our error was not running them earlier so that early voters would get a good look as well.
We also ran into a problem when it came to securing a sample ballot. It was difficult at both the county and state level to actually see a ballot in front of our faces, and it really shouldn’t have to be.
Arkansas is one of the states that does not require a sample ballot to be printed in a local newspaper. Many states have this as a requirement, and citizens can see ballots as large as an entire page long before they make their decision. With the problems that were seen in Florida in 2000, you might think that it’s a good idea. We do too.
The point of these elections is for an informed public to make well-thought out decisions about who will represent them and what initiatives need to be passed or rejected. And seeing how the ballot is constructed and what it will look like before a person makes that decision is extremely important. It’s a bit like taking a test without opening the textbook first.
It may be tough to make it a statewide requirement before the next election. But we will remain diligent to provide the best-looking ballot before the early voting begins, and we challenge the Faulkner County Clerk, be it Margaret Darter or Aaron Knight, to figure out how to budget running the ballots in the paper for the future. It’s important as a community to provide our residents with all the information we can, and a good, clean readable ballot should be one of the easier things we can do.
(The Editorial Board is comprised of Publisher Zach Ahrens, Editor Ricky Duke and Reporter Joe Lamb)