Arkansas judicial elections

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Judges in Arkansas are elected in nonpartisan elections. These general elections take place on the same day as the primary elections for non-judge races in the state. Elections take place in even-numbered years.[1]

Nonpartisan general election

Judicial candidates compete in a nonpartisan general election. If no candidate wins a majority, the two candidates with the most votes participate in a runoff. If a runoff is required, it takes place on the same day as the general election for partisan races, and runoff candidates appear on the general election ballot.[2][3]

Supreme Court Courts of Appeal Circuit Courts District Courts
Nonpartisan elections - Eight-year terms Nonpartisan elections - Six-year terms Nonpartisan elections - Six-year terms Nonpartisan elections - Four-year terms


If a vacancy is filled via gubernatorial appointment, the appointed judge is prohibited from running for the seat in the next election. Instead, she or he must step down or run for a different position.[4]


Candidates choose whether to file by petition or pay a filing fee.[2]


Candidates who choose to pay the filing fee do so with the secretary of state, as opposed to a political party. The filing period takes place the week before March, ending on the first day of the month. Candidates who choose to file petitions must do so between 53 and 46 days before the beginning of the party filing period. Candidates have 60 days to gather petitions before the deadline.[2][5]

Petition filing

There are different requirements for different courts for candidates filing by petition. In all cases, the "number of electors" refers to the number of electors in the district who voted for governor in the preceding election. Between the flat number of signatures or the percentage of electors, whichever amount is smaller is used.

  • Supreme court: 10,000 signatures or 3 percent of the number of electors
  • Court of appeals: 2,000 signatures or 3 percent of the number of electors
  • Circuit court: 2,000 signatures or 3 percent of the number of electors
  • District court: 2,000 signatures or 1 percent of the number of electors[2]

Fee filing

The State Board of Election Commissioners established the following fees for candidates not filing by petition. The candidate pays the fee to the secretary of state upon filing:

  • Chief justice of the supreme court: 6 percent of the annual salary
  • Associate justice of the supreme court: 6 percent of the annual salary
  • Court of appeals: 5 percent of the annual salary
  • Circuit court: 4 percent of the annual salary
  • State district court: 3 percent of the annual salary

Local district judges have separate filing fees, decided by the locality.[2]


Results are posted on the Secretary of State website.[6]


History of judicial election changes in Arkansas

During the 2000 election, voters in the state approved changes to the Arkansas Constitution. Listed on the ballot as Amendment 3, this constitutional amendment provided for judges to be chosen in nonpartisan elections. Before the amendment took effect, candidates were identified by their political party on primary and general election ballots and were elected in partisan elections. Amendment 3 is also known as "Amendment 80."

Beginning in 1970, judicial reform advocates supported merit selection for appellate court judges and nonpartisan elections for judges in the lower courts. However, many judges, legislators and media members were opposed to merit selection because they felt it would amount to the legal profession preventing citizens from having a say in the selection process. After decades, Amendment 3 was developed as a compromise to reform the judicial selection process in the state. The amendment also allows the legislature, by voter approval, to institute a merit selection system for the appellate courts in the future. The amendment specifies the requirements for such a system if it is put in place.[7]


See also

External links


ArkansasArkansas Supreme CourtArkansas Court of AppealsArkansas Circuit CourtsArkansas District CourtsArkansas City CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of ArkansasUnited States District Court for the Western District of ArkansasUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern and Western Districts of ArkansasUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eighth CircuitArkansas countiesArkansas judicial newsArkansas judicial electionsJudicial selection in ArkansasArkansasTemplate.jpg