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Most of you vote for the "R" these days in the automatic and overwhelming way your parents or grandparents voted "D."

Arkansas likes lazy political monopolies.

That will be too bad next month in the secretary of state's race. The Democrat has experience, expertise and passion. The Republican offers only the "R."

The secretary of state has several responsibilities, among them mowing, maintenance, monument-guarding and file-keeping. But the big job is election services.

Susan Inman, the Democratic nominee, ran the election services division of the secretary of state's office for Sharon Priest. She was director of the Pulaski County Election Commission for 13 years. She knows more about elections than most anyone else, and she has passion for what she believes in, such as:

• Voting by mail, which she says we could expand to universal access simply by relieving the current ballot-by-mail restriction to absentee voters qualifying by disability or displacement. She would retain polling places for persons somehow not getting ballots or preferring that kind of voting experience. But she firmly believes that voting by mail, with the remittance of a marked ballot and affidavit of authenticity and a copy of a voter ID, would widen voter awareness, work to voter convenience, and encourage more people to participate and do so thoughtfully.

• Automatic registration by which one interacting with a state agency, such as for welfare services or a driver's license, would be registered to vote simply by that engagement--unless someone specifically said he didn't want to be a registered voter.

• Replacing the Board of Apportionment made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state to redraw legislative districts after each decennial census. She favors a more independent body with several non-officeholders appointed by officeholders. It wouldn't remove partisan politics from the process, but it would put a little distance between direct officeholders and the grotesque gerrymandering that sometimes takes place to protect favored incumbents or snooker unfavored ones.

In a debate last week on AETN, the aggressive Inman pretty much waxed the "R," Land Commissioner John Thurston, who follows the old and not-so-proud Democratic tradition of Bill McCuen and Charlie Daniels.

That tradition is to spend eight years on the state Capitol's lonely first floor in a merely clerical service office on land records. Then, as happened with McCuen and Daniels and now happens with Thurston, the land commissioner tries to move to the second floor to the secretary of state's office, which comes to represent the be-all and end-all to this land commissioner because the secretary of state runs the building where the land commissioner has sat around for eight years with nothing to do.

The land commissioner only gets attention when a whiz-bang investigative blogger finds out he spent nearly $30,000 for a boat with which to perform modest waterway responsibilities that could be handled by contracted services.

In the AETN debate, Thurston whined that Inman had accused him falsely of using the boat for personal pleasure. To be precise, she'd merely called the boat a "toy" that the land commissioner's office had used for business only six times. She said it makes her wonder what Thurston might buy if he held a real job.

She seems much more interested in election law than toys.

Inman lost badly to term-limited Mark Martin in the secretary of state's race in the Republican sweep four years ago. Then she lost a state legislative race. Losing seems to have liberated her. Where once she struck me as introverted, even shy, she now appears positively spunky.

You can't always tell what burns within a person.

"I'm just getting older, I guess," she told me.

She's worth a look by any voter interested in being more discerning than marking a straight "R" ticket.

She'd be no threat to tamper with new legislative districts. One specially selected "D" would be outnumbered on the 2021 Board of Apportionment by Republicans Asa Hutchinson and Leslie Rutledge. Anyway, she wants to farm out the job to a more independent group perhaps less inclined to draw some of the goofy state legislative districts we've seen every decade.

Thurston gripes that Inman only wants to change the apportionment process now that Democrats don't control it. That's another way of saying he only wants to hold on to the process because it's now the Republicans' turn to abuse it.

I'm mostly interested in expanding the opportunity to vote by mail. Forward-thinking states like Washington and Oregon have done it successfully. It would be better for voters to study their ballots at leisure at home, maybe even read proposed constitutional amendments, than to encounter inevitable surprises while standing in front of the voting machine.

Don't be surprised by the secretary of state's race. On that one, the "D" knows more about the job than the "R," if that matters.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 10/14/2018

Print Headline: It's about the job, folks


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Archived Comments

  • lohr52
    October 14, 2018 at 6:50 a.m.

    JB lists very good reasons to vote against Inman.
    Everyone knows the largest opportunity for voter fraud is the absentee ballot. So Inman’s solution is to make absentee ballots the norm.
    Everyone who wanders by a state office is registered to vote and is mailed a ballot. This is how to produce a well informed electorate?
    A non-political board is appointed by politicians?
    The first two ideas are ridiculous. The third is merely Ill-advised.

  • RBear
    October 14, 2018 at 8:24 a.m.

    LOHR really? What facts prove your point that the largest opportunity for voter fraud is absentee balloting? When you look at voter fraud in the two states who vote by mail, Oregon and Washington, the number of voter fraud cases is ZERO during the past five years, including the 2016 election. In other states, especially in the South where "measures to curb fraud" have been enacted, there is more voter fraud than most other parts of the nation. So apparently those "measures" don't work. This information was provided by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
    Yes, voter fraud by absentee ballot was higher in 2006 but that was over a decade ago. Both Oregon and Washington have put in place a system that works and works well. In fact, both states have seen voter turnout percentage in the mid to high 60s in 2016. Compare that to AR which had 53% turnout in 2016. Maybe that's what most right wingers are afraid of, an engaged electorate. So don't go giving me BS about voter fraud because there is no data to support it.
    With regards to redistricting, anyone involved in election redistricting can tell you a non-political board appointed by a balance of parties is the best approach to redistricting. Where it has been implemented, it has worked well. It would eliminate some of the gerrymandering that occurs as a result of political bias. Residents look at some districts and wonder what crack the officials were smoking when they drew the district. Want to see gerrymandering gone amok? Look at TX-35. I was in Texas when that district was drawn as a result of the 2011 seat increase for TX. It is a JOKE brought to you by a biased redistricting process.
    I have a friend, Michael Li, who is one of the nation's leading experts on redistricting and he will tell you how well balanced redistricting boards work and how badly biased boards are. He is consulted regularly by redistricting experts around the nation on redistricting and provides facts and examples to show the differences.

  • mozarky2
    October 14, 2018 at 9:20 a.m.

    "Razorback football fanhood is an obsession, an addiction, a disease. It's a drink that tastes good in the 1st qtr, provides a nice buzz in the 2nd and has you hauled to jail for sloppy, fall-down public drunk by the end of the 4th, where you bond out to repeat the next saturday"
    Sounds like a perfect description of the unhinged mob that the dimocrat party has become...

  • Skeptic1
    October 14, 2018 at 9:39 a.m.

    I, like millions of others, always voted where there was a D" behind the name. Now I am embarrassed I ever identified myself with that party. What you political scholars and faux journalists are missing is the stunning political realignment we are in the middle of. The Democrat party has become a fascist "mob" embracing violence, bigotry, sexism, intolerance, and elitism. They use Orwellian language to call anyone not of their ilk racists, homophobic sexists when they are what they label others. If you are a black conservative supporting Trump you are "mentally ill," only liberal women should be "believed," and if a bachelor senator is not a Democrat he will be the object of homophobic smears by Chelsea Handler.
    Mr. Brummett you are part of the problem.

  • RBear
    October 14, 2018 at 10:17 a.m.

    More unhinged comments from the Dixiecrat, skeptic. Nothing but BSC rhetoric from her and prone to calling those who don’t believe her caustic rhetoric “mentally ill.” Nuf said.
    I guess the concepts of the issues is too much for you to comprehend. Moving on. Moz is similar with no facts or solid rebuttal, but he’ll claim he’s only providing facts.

  • PopMom
    October 14, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.

    Any postal employee could wreak havoc with the elections with vote by mail. I am a big NO on that one. The only way that you can be sure that your vote counts is to show up and vote and hope that the Republicans have not thrown you off the voter rolls as they are doing in Georgia. I would support her because she has a D next to her name, and most Republicans have lost all sense of decency.

  • mozarky2
    October 14, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.

    After the dims suffered their Kavanaugh Collapse, it's undeniable that they've become an unhinged mob. Fact.
    And RB is a one-man unhinged mob. Remember, RB, how you predicted that the Republicans would suffer if Kavanaugh was confirmed? The exact opposite happened. Fact.

  • RBear
    October 14, 2018 at 11:16 a.m.

    Actually Moz, never actually said that. Putting words in my mouth, but you do that often. Go find the exact quote that said that.

  • RBear
    October 14, 2018 at 11:26 a.m.

    I am firm in my conviction on that point since I am always wary of the voter effect of situations. Things can change too easily. However, you have made bold statements this would bolster Republican chances in the House yet recent polls have shown otherwise. The Senate is another matter and I’m unsure.
    I still want to see you take me up on the bet for the House if you’re so confident.

  • WhododueDiligence
    October 14, 2018 at 11:46 a.m.

    "I, like millions of others, always voted where there was a 'D' behind the name."
    That's extreme. Always voting for a party shows complete and utter, unquestioning trust in a party.
    "The Democrat party has become a fascist 'mob' embracing violence, bigotry, sexism, intolerance and elitism."
    Whoa! That's extreme, too. What party convinced you of that?