NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA)- As candidates file to run for office in the state of Arkansas, but some are concerned about the cost of getting one’s name on the ballot.
In 41 states, the cost of filing to run for state-wide office is $250 or less; many states don’t have a fee at all. But in Arkansas, becoming a public servant requires a lot of cash.
“Arkansas despite being 49th in median income, has the highest filing fees in the country,” said Rep. Greg Leding of District 86.
Leding says the cost of filing to run for state-wide office is too high.
“I think the fee absolutely discourages low-income Arkansans from running for the state legislature, 57% of Americans don’t have $500 to cover for an emergency and we’re asking them to pay thousands of dollars in order to run for office,” Leding explained.
So just how much does it cost?
In Arkansas, a Democrat running for state representative must pay a $3,000 filing fee, for state senators it’s $4,500. On the Republican side, the fee for state representative is also $3,000, but those running for State Senate have to fork over $7,500.
“We use all that money directly for campaigns so every dime that is brought in from filing fees is used back for all the races in the state,” said Sarah Reynolds with the Republican Party of Arkansas.
Arkansas is one of only three states that allows political parties to set their own filing fees. Both Democrats and Republicans say the money goes back to the candidates.
“Typically filing fees are used for infrastructure within the party to be able to provide the kind of messaging or brand or appearance that these candidates who are choosing to run under the Democratic party expect from us,” said Rep. Michael John Gray, who represents District 47 and serves as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.
“I was going to run no matter what,” said Kelly Scott Unger, who is running for the House District 87 seat.
Scott Unger, a first-time candidate, says she was able to come up with the money but sees how the fee could be problematic.
“I certainly would like to see more people like myself that are just moms, working-class people, getting in there and running for office and I think a high filing fee could certainly deter them for that,” Scott Unger said.
Anyone looking to run as an Independent is required to collect petition signatures to get on the ballot. The Democratic party gives candidates the option to do the same if they cannot raise the money to pay the fee. Candidates have until March 1st to file.
Arkansans will be able to early vote in the general election starting on October 22nd. Early voting ends at 5:00 p.m. on the Monday prior to the election, which is on Nov. 6.