Arkansas is one of 24 states where if one gathers enough signatures, their issue can appear on the November ballot. A citizen-led initiative can either be in the form of an initiated act or a constitutional amendment.
This November, you may see a few citizen- led initiatives on the ballot and you will also find a proposed constitutional amendment that could impact the process for future initiatives.
Issue number 2 was one of the three constitutional amendments put forth by the 89th General Assembly.
It would require that at least 75% of the signatures be valid when the petitions are turned in.
For an initiated act, a petition must contain the signatures of registered voters equal to the amount of 8% of the total number of votes cast for the office of governor in the last preceding general election.
For a constitutional amendment it is necessary for a petition to contain signatures of qualified electors in the amount of ten percent (10%) of the total number of votes cast for the office of governor in the last preceding general election.
This year that amounts to 62,507 for initiated acts and 78,133 for a constitutional amendment. Signatures are also needed from registered voters in at least 15 counties.
Currently, if a group gathers signatures and turns those in by the deadline to the Secretary of State’s office, the office has 30 days to validate the signatures. There is no threshold to allow for an extension. So if only 10% of those signatures were from registered voters, the group would then be given an additional 30 days to gather the required amount.
Supporters of this amendment say the reason this measure is needed is because in the past groups were handing in petitions where less than 50% of the signatures were valid. Supporters say this helps to protect the process.
But others contend this is one area where the everyday citizen is allowed to affect government and the process should not be made any more difficult. The vote to put this issue to the voters was 65-17 in the House and 29-4 in the Senate.
So now it will be up to Arkansans to decide how we move forward.
You can find a copy of the proposed amendment at sos.arkansas.gov. Just click on "elections" and then go to "initiatives and referenda".