Renewed interest in Arkansas ballot process following nixed amendments

According to content partner KARK, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, officials rejected ballot titles...
According to content partner KARK, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, officials rejected ballot titles related to rejecting a Pope County casino and legalizing marijuana, the latter of which had collected enough signatures to move forward.(Source: KAIT-TV)
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 9:01 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK/KAIT) – Following two amendments being rejected by the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, some Arkansans are beginning to ask more about how exactly the ballot process works.

According to content partner KARK, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, officials rejected ballot titles related to rejecting a Pope County casino and legalizing marijuana, the latter of which had collected enough signatures to move forward.

Commissioners determined the amendment to be inadequate because it did not include information about THC proportion limits.

“I thought that was unfair, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” said Steve Lancaster, the counsel for Responsible Growth Arkansas.

Lancaster told KARK that the state’s current balloting process can be challenging to overcome.

“I would prefer possibly a different process, especially after a result like [Wednesday],” he said.

Professor Matt Bender with the University of Arkansas Law School said formerly, people could submit the title before gathering signatures. Now, once the signatures are verified, proposals go before the commissioners.

“The Board of Election Commissioners is supposed to catch and stop things that are fraudulent or misleading,” he said.

Bender said the rulings show the commissioners may have gone further than expected, looking at the contents of the legislation rather than the title itself.

“The merits of this bill should be up to voters,” he told KARK. “That’s how these things generally work. They’re not supposed to be arbiters of the quality of legislation.”

State Sen. Jim Hendren said a simple solution would be allowing for a “curing period” where ballot titles can be amended or fixed.

“If they say you need to be more descriptive in this area, you can come back and get it fixed,” he explained.

Hendren added he hopes the issue is taken up at the next legislative session. Meanwhile, groups like Responsible Growth Arkansas will be required to appeal to a higher power.

“We’ll go to the [state] supreme court and see what happens,” Lancaster said.

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