Bizarre ballot measure lawsuit dismissed from Arkansas Supreme Court

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May 21, 2010

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas: On May 20, 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that sponsors of a flat tax initiative could not file a challenge to their own measure, dismissing the challenge from court. The lawsuit in question was filed by Brandon Woodrome, director for the group backing the initiative, Arkansas Progressive Group. Woodrome filed a legal sufficiency challenge on the ballot language with the Arkansas Supreme Court in order to see if the measure's wording was in compliance with state and federal constitutions.

The group was technically taking their own ballot language to court, in order to cover every base. According to Woodrome, the group did not want to spend their money, time and effort on the initiative only to have it taken off the ballot by legal action in the weeks leading up to the November election.[1]

The challenge stemmed from the Arkansas Secretary of State's second opinion of the measure, which stated, "I believe a cautionary note is warranted...You should be aware that according to my experience there is a direct correlation between complexity of initiated constitutional amendments and their susceptibility to a successful ballot title challenge." The opinion also stated that any ambiguities in the ballot language could lead to a legal challenge, and a successful one at that.

The group opposed to the initiative, Arkansas to Protect Police, Libraries, Education and Services (APPLES), intervened in the case, as allowed by state law, and claimed that the law allowing a request to review ballot measure language was not intended for the measure's actual sponsor. The group claimed that if proposal sponsors were able to do this, that would allow for "sham lawsuits." The Supreme Court agreed, with Justice Elana Cunningham stating, "If the statute is construed to allow a sponsor to petition for a declaration of legal sufficiency, then this court could conceivably be put in a position of having to decide the sufficiency of a ballot title without the benefit of any countervailing argument."[2]

The measure in question is an amendment to “repeals all state taxes and enact a flat rate sales tax”. The Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved the ballot title on January 7, 2010.[3]

According to reports, to summarize the amendment, if enacted, the measure would abolish state taxes on certain items and other activities and simply tax people when they choose to make a purchase. It has been described, by reports, as a “super sales tax”. The petition drive deadline to submit signatures for ballot consideration is July 2, 2010. The petition drive effort must collect at least 77,468 signatures since it is a proposed constitutional amendment.

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