BREAKING: Arkansas casino measures rejected by high court, but remain on ballot

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October 4, 2012

By Al Ortiz

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas: The twists and turns have finally ended regarding two casino measures that were proposed for the Arkansas ballot. In what has been a tangled web of litigation, the two proposed measures in the state will ultimately be on the ballot - but votes will not be counted.[1]

Both measures, proposed by two different sponsors, were rejected by the Arkansas Supreme Court. According to Arkansas law, if a proposed citizen-initiated measure is under litigation, it remains on the ballot. If a ruling rejecting a measure is not handed down by the deadline to remove measures from the statewide ballot, it remains on the ballot, but votes are not counted.

Below are the recent developments for each measure:

Nancy Todd's proposal

On August 24, 2012, Nancy Todd, the supporter of an initiative to allow casinos in the state, filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court over the rejection of her proposal by state election officials. Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin's office had previously rejected the revised wording that was submitted by supporters.

The lawsuit stated: "The secretary of state's threatened refusal to carry out this legal duty is a violation of his statutory obligations to the petitioners and the people and an abridgement of their rights under Amendment 7."[2]

According to reports, the group behind the measure submitted new ballot language after the Arkansas Secretary of State claimed the initially proposed language was insufficient.

While the lawsuit was being reviewed, election officials stated that the initiative collected the required amount of signatures to make the ballot.[3]

However, today, October 4, 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court stated that the measure's language was changed while signatures were being collected, deeming them invalid.

A separate lawsuit had also challenged the validity of Todd's petition signatures.

Michael Wasserman's proposal

On August 3, 2012, Michael Wasserman, sponsor of one of the two proposed casino amendments, filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court stating that elections officials should have given him more time to collect additional signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot. Previously, Wasserman's petition drive did not collect enough valid signatures by the state petition drive deadline in early July 2012.[4]

It is not unprecedented for the Arkansas Secretary of State to allow additional time for initiative organizers to collect signatures, however, reports say that Wasserman didn't meet a requirement that signatures from at least 15 counties equal at least 5 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's election.

The lawsuit argued that the 15-county rule should not apply since the campaign turned in more than 78,133 signatures, although not all were valid.

On September 20, 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied the lawsuit's arguments, therefore denying Wasserman's request for more time to collect additional signatures.[5]

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