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Bill filed to set March 2016 'SEC' presidential primary

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Arkansas voters may have a key role in deciding who the nominees for next year's presidential election will be, a state Senator said Tuesday.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, filed Senate Bill 389 at the capitol Tuesday morning.

Under the bill, voters would head to the polls March 1, 2016 to decide the Republican and Democratic nominees for the White House.

Stubblefield said the bill would give the state's voters a "voice in the process," noting the nominee is often determined in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

"The South has been an afterthought," Stubblefield said of the process.

Stubblefield said the bill would work to end the nationwide belief that the "South is South Carolina."

According to published reports, officials in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee are working on a so-called "SEC Primary" for the first Tuesday in March 2016.

Stubblefield said his bill would work toward that goal and that the idea has received bi-partisan support. The state Senator said the March 2016 idea would not only bring candidates to the state, but also allow them to talk about issues with the state's voters.

Under Stubblefield's bill, candidates would file a party certificate with the Secretary of State's office from Nov. 2, 2015 until Feb. 23, 2016.

Each party would be responsible for determining the qualifications for running, provide applications to candidates and accepting and processing the applications.

There are at least two dozen Republicans and a half-dozen Democrats who are considering running in 2016. Among them are two people with ties to Arkansas - former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and former Arkansas First Lady, Democratic senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As of Tuesday morning, the bill has not been referred to a committee. However, the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee would have jurisdiction on the issue, Stubblefield said.

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