The government of Arkansas, shaped by its political system, is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. These consist of the state governor's office, a bicameral state legislature known as the Arkansas General Assembly, and a state court system. The Arkansas Constitution delineates the structure and function of the state government. Arkansas has four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the U.S. Senate.
Most Republican strength lies mainly in the northwestern part of the state, particularly Fort Smith and Bentonville, as well as North Central Arkansas around the Mountain Home area. In the latter area, Republicans have been known to get 90 percent or more of the vote. The rest of the state is more Democratic. Arkansas has only elected three Republicans to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, Tim Hutchinson, who was defeated after one term by Mark Pryor, John Boozman, who defeated incumbent Blanche Lincoln in 2010, and Tom Cotton, who defeated incumbent Mark Pryor in 2014.
Although Democrats have an overwhelming majority of registered voters, Arkansas Democrats tend to be much more conservative than their national counterparts, particularly outside Little Rock. Reflecting the state's large evangelical population, the state has a strong social conservative bent. Under the Arkansas Constitution Arkansas is a right to work state, its voters passed a ban on same-sex marriage with 75% voting yes, and the state is one of a handful with legislation on its books banning abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
|2012||60.57% 647,744||36.88% 394,409|
|2008||58.72% 638,017||38.86% 422,310|
|2004||54.31% 572,898||44.55% 469,953|
|2000||51.31% 472,940||45.86% 422,768|
|1996||36.80% 325,416||53.74% 475,171|
|1992||35.48% 337,324||53.21% 505,823|
|1988||56.37% 466,578||42.19% 349,237|
|1984||60.47% 534,774||38.29% 338,646|
|1980||48.13% 403,164||47.52% 398,041|
|1976||34.93% 268,753||64.94% 499,614|
|1972||68.82% 445,751||30.71% 198,899|
|1968*||31.01% 189,062||30.33% 184,901|
|1964||43.41% 243,264||56.06% 314,197|
|*State won by George Wallace
of the American Independent Party,
at 38.65%, or 235,627 votes
Arkansas had the distinction in 1992 of being the only state in the country to give the majority of its vote to a single candidate in the presidential election—native son Bill Clinton—while every other state's electoral votes were won by pluralities of the vote among the three candidates. Arkansas has become more reliably Republican in presidential elections in recent years. The state voted for John McCain in 2008 by a margin of 20 percentage points, making it one of the few states in the country to vote more Republican than it had in 2004. (The others were Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and West Virginia.) The Democratic presence remained strong on the state level for longer: in 2006, Democrats were elected to all statewide offices by the voters in a Democratic sweep that included the Democratic Party of Arkansas regaining the governorship. By 2014, however, Republicans won all statewide offices, all Congressional seats and both chambers of the legislature.
As in the national government of the United States, political power in Arkansas is divided into three main branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
Each officer's term is four years long. Office holders are term-limited to two full terms plus any partial terms before the first full term. Arkansas governors served two-year terms until a referendum lengthened the term to four years, effective with the 1986 general election. Statewide elections are held two years after presidential elections.
Some of Arkansas's counties have two county seats, as opposed to the usual one seat. The arrangement dates back to when travel was extremely difficult in the state. The seats are usually on opposite sides of the county. Though travel is no longer the difficulty it once was, there are few efforts to eliminate the two seat arrangement where it exists, since the county seat is a source of pride (and jobs) to the city involved.
Arkansas is the only state to specify the pronunciation of its name by law (AR-kan-saw).[a]
Article 19 (Miscellaneous Provisions), Item 1 in the Arkansas Constitution is entitled "Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness," and states that "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court." However, in 1961, the United States Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), held that a similar requirement in Maryland was unenforceable because it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The latter amendment, per current precedent, makes the federal Bill of Rights binding on the states. As a result, this provision has not been known to have been enforced in modern times, and it is understood that it would be struck down if challenged in court.
The current Governor of Arkansas is Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who was elected on November 7, 2006. Beebe was reelected to his second and final term in 2010 which will expire January 13, 2015. The six other elected executive positions in Arkansas are lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, and land commissioner. The governor also appoints qualified individuals to lead various state boards, committees, and departments.
In Arkansas, the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and thus can be from a different political party.
The Arkansas General Assembly is the state's bicameral bodies of legislators, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate contains 35 members from districts of approximately equal population. These districts are redrawn decennially with each US census. The entire body was up for reelection in 2012 and henceforth senators are limited to two terms of four years and elections are staggered such that half the body is up for re-election every two years. Arkansas voters selected a 21-14 Republican majority in the Senate. Arkansas House members can serve a maximum of three two-year terms. House districts are redistricted by the Arkansas Board of Apportionment. Following the 2012 elections, Republicans gained a 51-49 majority in the House of Representatives.
The Republican Party majority status in the Arkansas State House of Representatives following the 2012 elections is the party's first since 1874. Arkansas was the last state of the old Confederacy to never have Republicans control either chamber of its house since the Civil War.
Arkansas's legislature is presently controlled by the Republican Party, which gained the majority in both houses following the 2012 general election.
The Arkansas House of Representatives
The Arkansas Senate
Most cases begin in district court, which is subdivided into state district court and local district court. State district courts exercise district-wide jurisdiction over the districts created by the General Assembly, and local district courts are presided over by part-time judges who may privately practice law. There are currently 25 state district court judges presiding over 15 districts, with more districts to be created in 2013 and 2017. There are 28 judicial circuits of Circuit Court, with each contains five subdivisions: criminal, civil, probate, domestic relations, and juvenile court. The jurisdiction of the Arkansas Court of Appeals is determined by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and there is no right of appeal from the Court of Appeals to the high court. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court can review Court of Appeals cases upon application by either a party to the litigation, upon request by the Court of Appeals, or if the Arkansas Supreme Court feels the case should've been initially assigned to it. The twelve judges of the Arkansas Court of Appeals are elected from judicial districts to renewable six-year terms.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state, composed of seven justices elected to eight-year terms. Established by the Arkansas Constitution in 1836, the court's decisions can be appealed to only the Supreme Court of the United States.
Arkansas's two U.S. Senators are elected at large:
|Representatives' Political Persuasion – the 113th Congress|
|AR District||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||Class 1 Senator||Class 2 Senator|
|Representative||Rick Crawford||French Hill||Steve Womack||Bruce Westerman||John Boozman||Tom Cotton|
Whereas, confusion of practice has arisen in the pronunciation of the name of our state and it is deemed important that the true pronunciation should be determined for use in oral official proceedings.
And, whereas, the matter has been thoroughly investigated by the State Historical Society and the Eclectic Society of Little Rock, which have agreed upon the correct pronunciation as derived from history, and the early usage of the American immigrants.
Be it therefore resolved by both houses of the General Assembly, that the only true pronunciation of the name of the state, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound. It should be pronounced in three (3) syllables, with the final "s" silent, the "a" in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables. The pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of "a" in "man" and the sounding of the terminal "s" is an innovation to be discouraged.