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Laws governing the initiative process in Arkansas (archive)

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Citizens of Arkansas can use the initiative process to:

A fourth way, not involving direct democracy, that a ballot measure can be placed on the statewide ballot in Arkansas is through the process of legislative referral. These are proposed laws or constitutional amendments that from the legislature. Approval from the voters are need to pass then amendments.

This article focuses on general issues of I&R law. For more information on getting an initiative on the ballot, see procedures for qualifying an initiative in Arkansas.

Section 1 of Article 5 of the Arkansas Constitution defines the basic laws and terms governing the initiative process in the state.

Types of initiatives and referenda

Citizen-initiated amendment

Once an citizen-initiated constitutional amendment is certified (sufficient signatures have been filed and certified as valid), it is placed on the next state general election ballot for voter approval.

Citizen-initiated statutes

Once an citizen-initiated state statute is certified (sufficient signatures have been filed and certified as valid), it is placed on the next state general election ballot for voter approval.

Legislative amendments

Once an legislatively-referred constitutional amendment is passed by the legislature, it is placed on the next state general election ballot for voter approval.

Legislative statutes

Once a legislatively-referred state statute is passed by the legislature, it is placed on the next state general election ballot for voter approval.

Veto referenda

Once a citizen-initiated veto referendum is certified (sufficient signatures have been filed and certified as valid), it is placed on the next state general election ballot for the voters to decide. A "Yes" vote approves the law as passed by the Legislature. A "No" vote rejects it. It is also possible to call a special election on a referendum measure.

Filing requirements

Sponsors of initiatives and referenda must submit the original draft of the proposed initiative or referendum to the Arkansas Attorney General, along with the proposed ballot language (known as the ballot title) as well as the proposed popular name. The Attorney General has 10 days to approve and certify the ballot title and popular name or to substitute and certify a more suitable title and name. If the Attorney General refuses to act, sponsors can apply to the Arkansas Supreme Court for relief.

Once the measure's ballot title and popular name have been approved, proponents must file with the Arkansas Secretary of State Election Division a copy of the petition. The petition form must be substantially the same as the sample form available from the Secretary of State's office. The complete text of the measure (or in the case of a referendum, the complete text of the measure on which the referendum would be ordered) should be attached to the petition, along with instructions to the canvasser (provided by the Attorney General or Secretary of State's office) in bold type. The Secretary of State is required to publish the measure in a newspaper of general circulation, at the sponsor's expense, at least 30 days before the signed petitions are filed with the Secretary of State's office.

Any Arkansas taxpayer and voter may submit a written request to the Secretary of State to challenge the legal sufficiency of a statewide initiative petition. Within 30 days, the Secretary of State will consult with the Attorney General and then issue a declaration about whether the ballot title of the measure is fair and complete and whether the measure, if approved, would violate any state constitutional provision or any federal constitutional, statutory, or regulatory provision, or would be invalid for any other reason. The petitioner, sponsor, or Arkansas taxpayer may petition the Arkansas Supreme Court to review the ruling within 15 days of the Secretary of State's declaration.

Single-subject rule

Arkansas does not have a single-subject rule for statewide initiatives, but county and municipal initiatives must "embrace only a single comprehensive topic."

Signature gathering

Main article: Arkansas signature requirements

Each petition should contain signatures of voters registered in a single county. Petitions can be submitted containing as few as one signature. When the petitions are filed with the Secretary of State, they must be divided by county.

All petitions must be signed by the petition circulator, as well as signed and stamped by a notary.

Signature requirements

Signature requirements in Arkansas differ between statutory initiatives, constitutional amendments, and veto referendums. For an initiated constitutional amendment, signatures equal to at least 10% of the total number of votes cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election are required. For an initiated state statute, signatures equal to at least 8% of this total are required. For veto referendums, signatures equal to at least 6% of this total are required.

Year Amendment Statute Veto referendum
2014 78,133 62,507 46,880
2012 78,133 62,507 46,880
2010 77,468 61,974 46,481
2008 77,468 61,974 46,481

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Arkansas Constitution, Article 5, Section 1

Circulation period

Initiative language can be submitted at any time, and the circulation time is unlimited.

Residency

See also: Residency requirements for petition circulators

In Arkansas, a circulator need not be a resident of the state in order to circulate petitions. The canvasser must be 18 years old.

The Arkansas Constitution states that no law shall be passed to prohibit any person or persons from giving or receiving compensation for circulating petitions.

Distribution requirement

See also: Distribution requirement

Arkansas requires that a petition must contain, from each of 15 counties, qualified signatures of at least half of the designated signatures for that county (1/2 of 10% = 5% for an amendment; 1/2 of 8% = 4% for an act). For example, if 1000 people voted for governor in a county and the petition is for a constitutional amendment, the signatures of 50 (5%) qualified electors are required.[1] The requirement was created by Arkansas Amendment 7 in 1920.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Arkansas Constitution, Article 5, Section 1

Signature verification

The Secretary of State will not accept filings that contain less than the total required number of signatures. An initial review of petitions filed will verify that all petitions are signed by the canvasser, properly notarized, and have the text of the measure attached. Any petitions not meeting these requirements will not continue through the verification process.

The Secretary of State will then verify signatures on the valid petitions up to 10% above the number required. Until this process has been completed, proponents may not submit additional signatures. If after verification a petition is determined not to contain a sufficient number of valid signatures, a sponsor may within 30 days of notification of insufficiency submit additional signatures, submit proof that rejected signatures should be counted, or make the petition more definite or certain.

Deadlines

  • Initiative language can be submitted at any time, and the circulation time is unlimited.
  • Signatures on initiative petitions must be submitted not less than four months before the election they are to be voted on. Initiatives may only appear on general election ballots. To appear on the November 2010 ballot, signatures must be filed by July 2, 2010.
  • Referendum petitions must be filed no later than 90 days after adjournment of the session at which the act was passed, except when a recess or temporary adjournment shall be taken for period longer than 90 days, in which case such petition shall be filed not later than 90 days after the recess or temporary adjournment.

Effective dates of measures

Initiatives and referenda voted into law become effective 30 days after the election at which they are approved.

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

An initiated amendment passed by the voters may only be changed by another vote of the people. An initiated state statute approved by a vote of the people can only be amended or repealed by a two-thirds vote of the general assembly (for statewide measures) or the city council (for local measures).

Conflicting measure

If two or more conflicting ballot measures are approved by a majority vote at the same election, the measure receiving the greatest number of affirmative votes shall become law.

Local initiatives and referenda

The Arkansas Constitution protects the people's right to petition their county and municipal governments as well.

Fifteen percent of the legal voters of any municipality or county may order the referendum or invoke the initiative upon any local measures. In municipalities, the number of signatures required upon any petition shall be computed upon the total vote cast for the office of mayor at the last preceding general election; in counties, upon the office of Circuit Clerk (or the office of Governor where electors have abolished the office of circuit clerk).

Sponsors of an initiative effort must submit fully in writing the ordinance sought by petitioners; or in the case of an amendment, set out fully in writing the ordinance sought to be amended and the proposed amendment. Sponsors of a referendum effort must submit fully in writing the ordinance, or parts thereof, sought to be repealed.

The submittal should contain a written certification of legal review by an attorney at law duly registered and licensed to practice in the State of Arkansas. This legal review shall be conducted for the purpose of form, proper title, legality, constitutionality, and conflict with existing ordinances. Legal review shall be concluded prior to the circulations of the petition for signatures. No change shall be made in the text of any initiative or referendum petition measure after any or all signatures have been obtained.

Local deadlines

Local initiative petitions: Initiated county and municipal measures must be filed with the county clerk no less than 60 days prior and not more than 90 days prior to the date of the next regular election.

Local referendum petitions: County and municipal referendum measures must be filed with the county clerk within 60 days after passage and publication of the measure sought to be repealed.

A referendum petition on a general ordinance, or any part thereof, shall delay the effective date on such part included in the petition until the ordinance is ratified by the electors. However, the filing of a referendum petition against one or more items, sections, or parts of any ordinance shall not delay the remainder from becoming operative.

Local certification

All petitions must be certified within 40 days prior to a regular general election to be included on that ballot. If a petition is certified within the 40-day window before an election, the measure shall appear on the following regular election ballot, unless a special election is called (only possible for a referendum measure).

Proposed changes

2011

Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

There have been no proposed changes in 2011.

2010

Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

There were no changes to Arkansas law in 2010[2].

Campaign finance

Main Article: Campaign finance requirements for Arkansas ballot measures

Some of the notable features of Arkansas campaign finance laws include:

  • Arkansas treats groups in support or opposition of a ballot measure differently than other political committees.
  • Arkansas uses two designations for groups in support or opposition of a ballot question, one is for citizen initiated questions, the other is for legislative initiated measures.
  • Arkansas requires monthly disclosure reporting for all groups registered in support or opposition of a ballot question.

Initiative statutes

References