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April 6, 2020
By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
(584 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK – Canvassers who rely on spring festivals and events to collect voter
signatures needed to put constitutional amendments and state laws on the ballot are
seeing these opportunities disappear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arkansas is one of 15 states in which citizens can propose constitutional amendments
and state laws through the ballot initiative process.
“Citizen-initiated measures are up in the air, as the Arkansas Constitution mandates
petitions with voter signatures be submitted by July 3,” Kristin Higgins, program
associate with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Public
Policy Center, said. “The state legislature and governor cannot alter the date set
by the constitution. Nor does the constitution or state law allow voter signatures
to be gathered digitally.
“The signatures must be collected on paper and those petitions must be notarized,”
she said. “Both of these matters are more difficult as people are staying home.”
One group, Arcade Arkansas, started collecting signatures in September for its gaming
proposal. A spokesperson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the spread of COVID-19
has complicated the signature-gathering effort.
Other groups are updating their volunteers through Facebook, urging alternatives for
collecting voter signatures.
Organizers with Arkansas True Grass, an organization that advocates for the legalization
of cannabis and hemp, have told Facebook group members to request a petition to be
mailed to them, hoping people will get them signed and notarized before sending them
back. They're also asking for donations to help cover the cost of the unexpected printing
"I wished we could somehow get legislators to provide a way for people to sign a petition
electronically," Mary Lou Berry with Arkansas True Grass, said. "It would be much
safer and would help the voices of those shut in that don't go out, who do vote by
absentee ballots. Why not provide the people a way to sign electronically?"
Berry helped write another proposed constitutional amendment, The Arkansas Digital
Petition Signing Option Act, which would allow voters to sign petitions electronically.
However, they haven't started collecting any signatures for the ballot measure yet.
Another group seeking to legalize marijuana for personal use and to address past criminal
convictions related to marijuana has also urged people on Facebook to take caution
and to take measures to keep themselves healthy and not spread the virus.
"Your lives and your family's life is much more important than signatures," Melissa
Fults posted on the Drug Policy Education Group-Arkansas page.
In an email, Fults told the Public Policy Center that signature gathering has drastically
slowed due to the precautions for the coronavirus.
"We are at 15,000 [signatures] right now, but if it breaks by May 1 we should [b]e
able to gather the required number of signatures," Fults said.
Thirteen proposed constitutional amendments and state laws have been filed with the
Secretary of State's Office for the November ballot. In addition, Arkansas legislators
have referred three amendments to voters and a group collected enough signatures for
a referendum on a 2019 state law.
Ballot issue groups have until July 3 to submit the required 89,151 voter signatures
for amendments and 71,321 voter signatures for state laws. Those signatures must come
from at least 15 different counties.
The Public Policy Center has published statewide voter guides on Arkansas ballot issues
since 2004, providing Arkansans a neutral source of research-based information on
proposed constitutional amendments and state laws. Sign up for the center’s monthly
ballot issue newsletter at https://uaex.uada.edu/ballot.
For information and resources on COVID-19 for families, businesses and others, visit
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDirector of CommunicationsUniversity of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture firstname.lastname@example.org 501-671-2006