America is experiencing a political crisis. The two major parties have moved so far from one another that neither is willing to work together anymore. Both are offering voters candidates who have no viable vision for our state or our country. These candidates focus their energies on misinformation, personal attacks, and extremist positions that only the most far-leaning supporters in each party demand.
The inaction in Washington, D.C., and in our state Legislature can be attributed to the fact that the parties are more worried about control than about addressing the issues that voters face every day. As a result, even the best-intentioned political leaders are hamstrung. Elected leaders are not solving problems and getting things done for the people anymore.
Voter turnout diminishes almost every year. Why? Because voters want real choices in elections. How many times do voters complain about having to choose between the "lesser of two evils"? In Arkansas, over 90 percent of elections are considered noncompetitive. Even worse, over 60 percent of candidates in our general elections are running unopposed. The current political system is imperiled and, so, our Americans values along with it.
It's time for the citizens of Arkansas to come together and to invest in changing the political incentives that are creating this behavior. This begins with fundamentally changing the way we choose our candidates. We must give the voters real choice in elections, real competition, and remove the artificial barriers the political parties have created to force us apart.
That's why I support top-two open primaries. In a top-two open primary, there is no longer a Republican primary or a Democratic primary. There is one Arkansas primary. Each candidate appears on the same ballot with his or her party affiliation, and every registered voter in Arkansas gets to vote from a complete field. The two candidates who receive the most votes go on to the general election.
With top-two open primaries, voters have the ability to vote for the candidate of their choice in every office, and in every election, no matter party affiliation. Candidates then become true representatives of their entire district instead of smaller factions.
Top-two primary systems are working very well in states that have adopted them, such as Louisiana, Nebraska, California and Washington. These states have some of the most efficient and productive legislatures in the country.
It's time to bring that same level of efficiency and productiveness to Arkansas. Top-two open primaries would prevent extreme candidates, who represent only a small percentage of a district, from making their way to the ballot in general elections. It's what we need at this time in our state: the ability to discuss, reach consensus, and to not be afraid to work across party lines for the good of our state. Most importantly, this plan gives the vote back to the people.
The voters of Arkansas want their political leaders to solve problems and to pass sound legislation. It's that simple. Let's broaden our base and hold our elected leaders to representation for all.
Isn't that what democracy is all about?
State Rep. Dan Douglas was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A Republican, he represents District 91, and is unopposed in his race in November.
Editorial on 09/27/2018