Arkansas Ballot Measure Signature Requirements Amendment, Issue 2 (2014)

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Issue 2
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Type:Legislatively-referred constitutional amendment
Constitution:Arkansas Constitution
Referred by:Arkansas State Legislature
Topic:Direct democracy measures
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
Issue 1
Issue 2
Issue 3
Issue 4
Issue 5
PollsFull text
The Arkansas Ballot Measure Signature Requirements Amendment, Issue 2 is on the November 4, 2014 general election ballot in Arkansas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. If approved by voters, the amendment would require ballot issue groups to collect at least 75 percent of the valid signatures required in order to receive additional time to gather extra signatures once the petition has been turned in to the Secretary of State. To be placed on the ballot, proposed constitutional amendments need at least 78,133 valid signatures, and proposed initiated measures require at least 62,507.[1] The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Bill Sample (R-14) in the Arkansas State Legislature, where it was known as Senate Joint Resolution 16.[2]

Background

See also: Signature verification for initiatives in Arkansas

Under current Arkansas laws, there is no threshold requirement to receive additional time to gather more signatures. Within 30 days of receiving petition signatures, the Arkansas Secretary of State verifies each signature up to 110 percent of the required number. Prior to counting, the Secretary removes any individual petitions that are formally deficient. If any individual petition appears, beyond a reasonable doubt, to contain 20 percent or more dubious signatures, initiative sponsors are then responsible for proving which of the signatures are valid. If the petition fails to meet the signature requirement, petitioners have 30 days to collect additional signatures or demonstrate that rejected signatures are valid.[3]

Text of measure

See also: Arkansas Senate Joint Resolution 16 (2013)

Constitutional changes

If approved, Issue 2 would amend Section 1 of Article 5 of the Arkansas Constitution. The amended section would read as follows with the underlined text being added and the struck through text being removed:[4]

(a)(1) If the Secretary of State, county clerk or city clerk, as the case may be, shall decide any petition to be insufficient, he or she shall without delay notify the sponsers sponsors of such petition, and permit at least thirty (30) days from the date of such notification, in the instance of a state-wide petition, or ten (10) days in the instance of a municipal or county petition, for correction or amendment.

(2) For a state-wide petition, correction or amendment of an insufficient petition shall be permitted only if the petition contains valid signatures of legal voters equal to:

(A) At least seventy-five percent (75%) of the number of state-wide signatures of legal voters required; and
(B) At least seventy-five percent (75%) of the required number of signatures of legal voters from each of at least fifteen (15) counties of the state.

(b) In the event of legal proceedings to prevent giving legal effect to any petition upon any grounds, the burden of proof shall be upon the person or persons attacking the validity of the petition.[5]


Support

Supporters say this measure is necessary to prevent ballot measure campaigns from submitting false signatures so as to buy time in their attempt to bring their issue before voters. Last year, a high number of invalid signatures were submitted by supporters of casino and severance tax proposals.[1]

Opposition

The measure is opposed by various groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, the Arkansas AFL-CIO and the Family Council. These groups believe that, if the measure is passed, it will be difficult for citizens to bring issues before voters. Another opponent of the measure, Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-97) said, "This is one area where people can touch government and can affect government and the only reason for this is to make it harder for them to do that."[1]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing ballot measures in Arkansas & Amending the Arkansas Constitution

A prior version of SJR 16 originally set the signature threshold at 90 percent; however, this proposal was rejected by the Senate.[6] The current version of this measure was also initially rejected by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments; however, it was later approved.[7] Section 22, Article 19, of the Arkansas Constitution says that a majority vote is required in both houses of the Arkansas Legislature in order to send a measure to the ballot.

The Senate voted 29 to 4 to approve the amendment on April 18, 2013.[8] The House passed the measure on to the ballot with a vote of 65 to 17 on April 19, 2013.[1]

Senate vote

April 18, 2013 Senate vote

Arkansas SJR 16 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 29 87.88%
No412.12%

House vote

April 19, 2013 House vote

Arkansas SJR 16 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 65 79.27%
No1720.73%

Ballot language legal challenges

All three of the legislatively-referred constitutional amendments for the 2014 ballot faced difficulties due to an apparent mistake made by Senate Bill 821 in the 2013 regular session. The bill, which became Act 1413, was controversial on its own grounds, but directly impacted these measures by removing the requirement that the attorney general write popular names for the amendments put forward by the legislature.[9] While initially appearing to be a minor procedural issue, Arkansas law requires a ballot measure to have a popular title to appear on the ballot. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) had endorsed Act 1413 in 2013 without realizing this complication. The matter was brought to attention by the secretary of state's request of opinions on the matter.[10]

On January 23, 2014, the secretary of state's office announced that they would use language provided by the attorney general's office and from the measures themselves to prepare the ballot language. The attorney general had claimed that the secretary of state had the authority to do so, but Martha Adcock, general counsel for the secretary of state's office, has expressed some doubt over the process. She said,

Anybody can sue. This is no guarantee by us saying we're going to provide and use the attorney generals' popular name that somebody won't sue and say there's no authority for doing so.[5]

—Martha Adcock, general council to Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, [11]

It appears that some groups may try to use this legal gray area to challenge the legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. A group opposed to the term limits amendment and another that had dropped its initiated ballot measure for ethics reforms due to the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the same issue have both expressed the possibility of using a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the measures due to the confusion caused by Act 1413.[11]

Related measures

See also

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