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OPINION: Numbers Do Matter In Life, Legislation, And Of Course, Politics

by Maylon Rice | April 28, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Just ask anyone. I mean anyone. How many votes does it take to win, well, anything? Just one more than 50% and you win.

Unless, of course, we are talking about the changes that are brewing down in Little Rock with the General Assembly.

It strikes me as odd, very odd, that a group of 135 lawmakers who have been operating on the rock-firm premise that to obtain political office against any opponent, within the party of their choosing, or that other party -- 1 vote more than the opposition and you are the victor -- the winner is always the candidate who decided what the "majority" of the voters 50 percent plus 1 vote -- not 60% -- wanted and chose for their elected delegate.

And now some in the legislature with some casual backing from others, perhaps just tired of all the ugliness or all the politics, are about to allow a constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, will need 60 percent to win let's say on the topic of Constitutional Questions to be victorious.

What you say, who would want that? Some lawmakers in the 93rd General Assembly, perhaps.

Especially those who cannot get anything passed within the legislative body and want to stop the people -- that is me and you, Mr. and Mrs. Voter -- to quit changing things at the Constitutional level in our state.

I simply ask this question: Why doesn't the General Assembly require of itself a 60% threshold on all acts, bills and legislation?

Why doesn't the legislature take on a 60% or higher vote qualifier from itself to overturn a governor's veto of a bill? Right now, a 51% percent vote overrides a governor's veto.

One vote works just fine in those instances (given the one saving grace for taxes and budgets that require a sterner majority of the Arkansas House and State Senate).

Do our elected officials want to change the rules where they only take office if they get 60% of the vote totals in their House or Senate districts?

I can answer that question; can't you?

I've never liked narrow races, but I have seen quite a few.

I've seen a city council seat flipped for by a coin or drawn the highest number on a slip of paper in a ceremonial hat, basket or pouch before.

And I've seen a million-dollar bond issue for city infrastructure, a school building failed to be built and, yes, I've seen a race or two decided by that old standard 50% plus 1 vote win political races.

And I have sat through multiple machine counts and even hand counts back in the old days prior to voting machines where political races were decided by one, two or three ballots out of several thousand cast.

Do Arkansas voters need to be hampered by anything over than the 50% plus 1 vote on Constitutional questions? We know and have seen such issues as medical marijuana pass by more than 60% and add to that casino gambling too.

But we voters in Arkansas have seen other issues fail by that narrowest of margins, literally meaning that while 60% didn't approve or be against the measure -- the voting public was well split on the issue.

So if, in our state's future, a Constitutional issue doesn't get 60%, it fails, even if it gets 51, 53, 55, or even 59 percent of the vote?

That sound right to you?

-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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