Kristin Higgins Public Policy Center Phone: 501-671-2160 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service 2301 S. University Avenue Little Rock, AR 72204
Ballot Issue Groups Scramble as Pandemic Petition Rules Change
by Kristin Higgins - June 30, 2020
Ballot issue groups pivoted again this month in how they collected voter signatures
for their proposed constitutional amendments after a federal appeals court blocked
an earlier ruling that allowed them to collect signatures by mail.
Arkansas' deadline for submitting voter signatures for 2020 ballot measures are due
July 3. However, state offices are closed that day for the July 4 holiday. The deadline
has been extended to Monday, July 6.
Sponsors of citizen-initiated proposals seeking a spot on the November ballot have
been hampered by the pandemic. Many festivals where they usually find voters have
canceled. Social distancing efforts have made people leery about being approached
by canvassers. As a result, five remaining ballot issue groups have placed petitions
at businesses and churches across the state or turned to other ways of gathering signatures.
Arkansas Voters Firstheld drive-through signing opportunities last week in Conway, Fayetteville, Little
Rock and Rogers to help meet the 89,151 voter signature threshold. A certain percentage
of signatures must come from at least 15 counties. (Did you know? Issue 3 on this year's ballot would increase that number to 45 counties
for future amendments.)
Supporters of the group's effort to create an independent commission to draw Arkansas'
legislative districts filed a lawsuit seeking relief of some signature gathering rules
due to the pandemic. A federal judge in May agreed to ease paperwork requirements
while their case made it through the court system, but the state appealed and a federal
appeals court blocked that easing in mid-June.
Some groups weren't aware of the change until a week later and again had to change
their methods for collecting signatures. Melissa Fults, sponsor of theArkansas Adult Cannabis Use Amendment, said they were too close to the deadline to just stop trying.
"I'm not going to give up now," she said in an interview. "This has been the hardest
fight we've ever had to fight."
The cannabis amendment was one of five proposed constitutional amendments published
in an Arkansas newspaper by a June 3 deadline for citizen-initiated amendments. Groups
that did not publish the ballot title of their proposal could not move forward. Scroll
down to find ballot titles for the five proposals as well as the three amendments
on the ballot from the legislature.