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Arkansas Ballot Issues - Legal Challenges and Updates

by Kristin Higgins - September 5, 2018

Election Day is less than two months away, but the Arkansas ballot remains fluid as opponents go to court to try and knock statewide proposals off the ballot. 

There was a whirlwind of activity this week so we offer this summary of where each ballot issue stands as of Friday, Sept. 7.

Issue 1
Too much is packed into this single ballot measure, a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge ruled this week in a lawsuit seeking to strike this tort reform measure from the ballot. The judge agreed with Marion Humphrey, the plaintiff in the case, and ordered Issue 1 off the ballot.

However, the Secretary of State's Office plans to appeal the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Ultimately the justices will decide the fate of Issue 1, which was referred to voters by the state legislature. 

Issue 2
No one has filed to support or oppose this constitutional amendment that would require voters to present photographic identification when voting. No legal challenges have been filed either.

Issue 3 
Arkansans for Common-Sense Term Limits filed a lawsuit Sept. 5 saying the ballot issue's popular name (Arkansas Term Limits Amendment) misleads voters. The popular name doesn't tell voters that it would also "amend the mechanism for amending term limits," the lawsuit says.

The ballot title also omits "essential facts" necessary for voters, including an effective date and how term limits would be impacted by redistricting.

Randy Zook, who chairs the group opposed to shortening term limits for Arkansas legislators, also challenged the voter signatures submitted to qualify the proposal. According to the complaint, canvassers didn't include their current residence on paperwork and some lacked proper signature cards showing the wording of Issue 3. The lawsuit alleges some canvassers also lacked proper background checks.

Plaintiffs asked that the signatures submitted by those canvassers be disqualified. If they are, the initiative would lack sufficient signatures to be on the ballot.

Issue 4 
This week, the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office said the campaign to legalize casinos at four locations in Arkansas turned in enough voter signatures to qualify the issue for the Nov. 6 ballot. The measure was officially certified and will appear on the ballot. No legal challenges have been filed over this initiative.

*UPDATE - A lawsuit was filed Sept. 10 to remove this issue from the ballot. The lawsuit challenges Issue 4's popular name and 707-word ballot title, saying they are misleading to voters in part because they do not define everything included in the proposal. The lawsuit also points out that Oaklawn and Southland are mentioned in the title but do not appear in the wording of the proposal.  

**UPDATE II - A second lawsuit was filed Sept. 12 to remove Issue 4 from the ballot. This lawsuit also challenges the wording of Issue 4 and says it doesn't tell voters the measure would violate the state constitution's ban on monopolies.

Issue 5 
Arkansans for a Stronger Economy filed a lawsuit Sept. 4 challenging this proposal to increase Arkansas' minimum wage. Also led by Zook, the opposition group is challenging the signatures collected to put this proposed state law on the ballot.

The group's lawsuit says signatures collected by canvassers who didn't report the address of their current residence should be thrown out. That would mean Issue 5 supporters shouldn't have qualified for the "cure period" they received to gather additional signatures to qualify the act for the ballot. The lawsuit also argues for tossing signatures collected by canvassers who didn't undergo background checks as required.

The Arkansas Supreme Court appointed a special master (a judge) to review the challenged signatures. The special master's report is due Sept. 24.