New Lawsuit Filed Challenging November Referendum on Act 579
Safe Surgery Arkansas has collected enough signatures from voters to have a statewide referendum on Act 579, a law passed in the 2019 legislative session that expanded the number of procedures optometrists can perform. Previously, only ophthalmologists could perform the procedures named in the law.
The Arkansas Secretary of State notified the ballot issue group Jan. 31 that they had enough signatures to qualify the referendum for the November ballot. The certification of signatures came after several legal challenges over the signatures.
It appeared that the referendum had cleared all legal hurdles but on Feb. 28, supporters of changes made by Act 579 filed a new lawsuit in the Arkansas Supreme Court challenging the referendum once again.
The new lawsuit, Arkansans For Healthy Eyes v. John Thurston, claims that canvassers mislead voters when asking them to sign petitions calling for a referendum. The lawsuit also says the petition is invalid because the Attorney General never approved the ballot title as required under state law in effect last year.
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled recently that a new election law containing new requirements for canvasser paperwork was not in effect and could not be enforced for the referendum. This led supporters of Act 579 to point out that if the old law was still in effect, then the referendum's ballot title needed to be approved by the Attorney General and that didn't happen with this ballot measure. The referendum campaign had submitted its title to the Secretary of State, the office named in the new election law.
Read the new court filings here.
Read our January newsletter for history on this referendum and links to previous related court cases.