Group Seeks Multiple Referendums
Arkansans for a Unified Natural State want voters to have a say over several new laws adopted by state legislators during the 2021 legislative session.
The group filed three proposed veto referendums with the Arkansas Secretary of State's office last month.
Arkansans for a Unified Natural State submitted three proposed referendums in May:
- An Act Restricting Absentee and Early Voting Rights - This proposal would put up for a vote Act 736 concerning absentee ballots. (This referendum no longer involves Act 727 concerning ballot privacy or Act 973 concerning deadlines for submitting absentee ballots in person.)
- An Act Eliminating The Reasonable Duty to Retreat Before Using Deadly Force - This proposal would put Act 250 up for a vote. The law concerns the defense of a person with the use of physical force
or deadly physical force, commonly called a "Stand Your Ground" law.
- An Act Removing Parental Rights to Medically Care For Their Children - This proposal would put Act 626 up for a vote. Sponsors of Act 626 named their law the "Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act."
How Referendums Work in Arkansas
Referendums ask voters whether they want to keep a state law recently passed by state legislators. A "FOR" vote on referendums allow the law to go into effect. An "AGAINST" vote would repeal a law.
The last time Arkansans voted on a referendum was in 1994. More recently, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a referendum on a 2019 law involving eye care before voting started.
Arkansans for a Unified Natural State has a shorter time frame to collect voter signatures for their ballot issues than most citizen groups because their measures are referendums. Petitions with voter signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State's Office no later than 90 days of the legislature adjourning.
This year, state legislators decided to recess so they could come back later this fall to handle redistricting. An Attorney General's opinion issued May 20 says the 90th day is July 27 if legislators don't reconvene before then. Acts without emergency clauses would take effect July 28.
To place a referendum on the statewide ballot, a ballot issue group must collect and submit voter signatures equal to 6% of the number of people who voted in the last election for governor. This year, 6% equals 53,491 valid voter signatures.
Kwami Abdul-Bey, who formed the group after the session ended, said he has a goal of collecting voter signatures by midnight on July 4. He described Arkansans for a United Natural State as a coalition of over a dozen different community and political organizations and nonprofits.
Abdul-Bey said they are already collecting signatures for the referendums and plan to file more proposals for the statewide ballot "that will all fall within our intended goal to galvanize all of the citizens of Arkansas to join together, en masse, to directly respond to obviously ill-intended partisan activist lawmaking that came out of the 93rd legislative session."