Arkansas Constitution

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Arkansas Constitution
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The Arkansas Constitution is the basic governing document of Arkansas. This fifth and current version was first adopted in 1874, at the end of the Reconstruction Period as the state reclaimed power from the federal government.[1]

Provisions of the current Arkansas Constitution


See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The Arkansas Constitution Preamble states:

We, the People of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government; for our civil and religious liberty; and desiring to perpetuate its blessings, and secure the same to our selves and posterity; do ordain and establish this Constitution.[2]

Article 1: Boundaries

Article 1 defines the physical boundaries of the state.[2]

Article 2: Declaration of Rights

Article 2 extends to citizens the rights granted by the United States Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution, including the right to bear arms, the right to writ of habeas corpus and more.[2]

Article 3: Franchise and Elections

Article 3 establishes that "elections shall be free and equal" and that "no power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage." Parts of this article were superseded by the 39th Amendment. It also ensures that "no idiot or insane person shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector."[2]

Article 4: Departments

Article 4 establishes the separation of powers. "The powers of the government of the State of Arkansas shall be divided into three distinct departments, each of them to be confided to a separate body of magistracy, to-wit: Those which are legislative, to one, those which are executive, to another, and those which are judicial, to another."[2]

Article 5: Legislative Department

Article 5 discusses the operations of the Arkansas General Assembly. It provides that the Assembly shall meet biennially (Section 5) and limited to 60 days unless approved by two-thirds of both houses (Section 17). Section 4 sets the qualifications for members.[2]

Article 6: Executive Department

Article 6 forms the executive offices of Arkansas government. This article was heavily revised by later amendments.[2]

Article 7: Judicial Department

Article 7 forms the judiciary and was also heavily amended.[2]

Article 8: Apportionment--Membership in General Assembly

Article 8 establishes the two houses of the legislature: the House of Representatives and the Senate.[2]

Article 9: Exemption

Article 9 creates exemption against the seizure of property, with specific provisions for widows and children.[2]

Article 10: Agriculture, Mining and Manufacture

Article 10 authorizes the Assembly to pass laws supporting Arkansas' agriculture, mining and manufacturing (including a seven-year abatement of all taxes on capital investment in such).[2]

Article 11: Militia

Article 11 establishes a state militia. "The militia shall consist of all able-bodied male persons, residents of the State, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years; except such as may be exempted by the laws of the United States, or this State; and shall be organized, officered, armed and equipped and trained in such manner as may be provided by law."[2]

Article 12: Municipal and Private Corporations

Article 12 delineates the liabilities of private companies.[2]

Article 13: Counties, County Seats and County Lines

Article 13 establishes the conditions for forming and changing the boundaries of counties.[2]

Article 14: Education

Article 14 establishes a school fund for use in a free public school system.[2]

Article 15: Impeachment and Address

Article 15 defines the conditions and procedures of impeachment. This article was amended by a 2000 referendum.[2]

Article 16: Finance and Taxation

Article 16 establishes rules governing state funds and the taxes that may be levied.[2]

Article 17: Railroads, Canals and Turnpikes

Article 17 describes these modes of transportation.[2]

Article 18: Judicial Circuits

Article 18 establishes the Judicial Circuits and states which counties are represented in each circuit.[2]

Article 19: Miscellaneous Provisions

Article 19 covers miscellaneous items.[2]


Article 19, Section 1, titled "Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness," states: "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court."[2]

It is commonly believed that Article Six of the United States Constitution bans such qualifications when it states, "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." This section has been rarely enforced, since it would almost certainly be thrown out if challenged in court.

Article 20: "Holford" Bonds Not to Be Paid

Article 20, added by Amendment 1, prohibits the General Assembly from making appropriations for payment of principal and interest on several bond issues from 1869-1871, commonly referenced as "Holford" bonds, which were passed during Reconstruction by a Union-dominated General Assembly.[2]


The Schedule provided for a transition between the current Constitution and the prior one.[2]


As of the conclusion of the November 2014 elections, 94 amendments have been added to the Arkansas Constitution.[3]

Amending the Constitution

The current Constitution allows for two methods of amendment.

Legislative amendment

See also: Legislatively-referred constitutional amendment

Under Section 22 of Article 19, both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly may propose amendments. The amendment requires majority approval from both houses, and the vote must be recorded. The amendment must also be published in at least one newspaper in each county for six months prior to the next election of the Assembly and also requires majority approval from the voters.[2]

However, the Section places further restrictions on legislative amendments:[2]

  • Each amendment must be separately placed on the ballot.
  • No more than three amendments may be placed on any one ballot.

Amendment by Initiative

Under Section 1 of Article 5, ten percent of legal voters may propose a constitutional amendment by initiative. Majority approval of the voters is needed to pass it. No less than four months before the election, the proposed amendment must be filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State, and 30 days prior to the election the petitioners must publish the amendment "in some paper of general circulation."[2]


In 1836, Arkansas held a constitutional convention to draft a document in order to qualify for statehood. The constitution created at that convention was ratified by Congress on January 30, 1836. On June 15, 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed the act, making Arkansas a state.[1]

That constitution was the first of five in the state's history. The next constitution was created when the state seceded from the Union in May 1861. It was kept mostly in tact from the original but changed references to the United States of America to the Confederate States of America. The third constitution was adopted in 1864 and was a requirement to qualify for wartime reconstruction. The fourth constitution officially brought Arkansas back to the Union in 1868. It was written following the terms of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867. The fifth and final constitution was adopted in 1874. This document transferred a great deal of power from the state to local governments. Eighty-three amendments have been adopted to the current constitution since then.[1]

See also

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