UPDATE: Jack Wagoner, a Little Rock lawyer, has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging violations of constitutional due process in insufficient notice to voters about two medical marijuana proposals that appear on Arkansas election ballots.
Issue 6 is a constitutional amendment. Issue 7 is an initiated act. The Arkansas Supreme Court invalidated Issue 7 in a petition signature challenge after early voting had begun.
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The complaint is not only that voters who voted early might have made different decisions had they known 7 was dead. It is also that voters since haven’t been given adequate notice as they consider ballots that still contain both measures.
Technically, Issue 7 isn’t finally dead yet. Supporters have asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.
UPDATE: Wagoner filed the lawsuit this afternoon, not this morning as originally expected.
This is not the final filed copy, but is substantially the same. The case was assigned to Judge Jay Moody. No hearing has been scheduled, but one should be set quickly because of a request for a temporary restraining to require better notice to voters at all polls about the disqualification of Issue 7.
Some counties have put up notices of the Supreme Court decisions that invalidated not only Issue 7, but also Issues 4 and 5, on casinos and tort reform. But as the photo of the Pulaski County early voting site shows, the notice is lost among other announcements.
Wagoner said he’ll propose that the judge require large signs and perhaps printed notices for each voter. I’m no lawyer, but I’d guess this is a long shot.
Wagoner supplied this account to illustrate confusion from two of his plaintiffs, Jim and Cynde Watson of Marion County
My husband and I went to the Marion Co courthouse in Yellville to vote. The woman that gave us the ballots explained that 2 issues appeared on the paper ballot but they had been removed, the issue regarding casinos and the issue regarding malpractice limits. I told her that the medical marijuana issue 7 had also been removed, according to the news. She said oh no it has not. Issue 6 and 7 are on the ballot and no way they can be removed now since so many early voters have already cast their ballot. She said our clerk would know if a change was made and she would have told me. Somebody is messing with you, she said, they are both on the ballot.
I did not believe her, my husband did. I voted yes on 6 & 7, he voted no to 6 and yes to 7. We both feel cheated. We both want 7 to pass.
We are both registered voters, we are semi retired and we would be willing to make a trip or 2 to Little Rock. Let me know if we can help.
Jim and Cynde Watson
They were joined as plaintiffs by Sharon Boehm Hussman of Little Rock. She has not voted but cites confusion about the issue for those still planning to vote.
The suit names Secretary of State Mark Martin and the state board of election commissioners as defendants.
The suit asks for a temporary restraining order to require better notice at polling places. The suit includes photos of several polling places with small and hard-to-see notices with little explanation.
The suit asks for an order that every voter be handed a sheet of paper, 8.5 x 11 inches, that bears this message in at least 32-point type:
If this is too burdensome, the complaint says, it requests at least three similar signs placed at prominent places at each poll.
The suit argues that the case is properly in federal court because of the right to vote without state impairment and that due process rights are being abridged by the confusion. Law requires an “orderly, fair and honest” election, the suit says.
The suit attempts to preserve the issue of voter confusion — particularly on the part backers of 7 who did NOT vote for 6 in early voting but might have had they known about the coming Supreme Court decision — until after the election if Issue 6 fails by a close margin. The suit asks that allow those who voted before the Supreme Court ruling be given an opportunity to vote again.
I’m glad I voted early for both. Voting for both now remains the safest path if you believe Arkansans should be able to legally obtain marijuana for medical use.
The Supreme Court should conference today on whether to rehear the Issue 7 decision. It would be surprising if they did, though it would be the right thing to do. The decision was 5-2 and one of the five, Courtney Goodson, has written that she believes the law used to strike signatures infringed the state constitutional right to petition government.
UPDATE: The Hutchinson administration war on medical marijuana continues today with another in a series of free media events by Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe to talk about the evils of medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, the committee opposing medical marijuana filed a report this week showing $130,000 in additional contributions, led by $50,750 from the Family Council Action Committee. The right-wing religious lobby got that amount from Moutaire Corporation, the poultry company headed by Ron Cameron who’s put untold sums into virtually every Republican-related race or issue of consequence.. Another $9,000 came from the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Remember them when you VOTE NO ON ISSUE 3, which legalizes taxpayer subsidies of chambers of commerce. Lobbyists Ted and Julie Mullenix, whose clients include major corporate interests including at least one pharmaceutical company, gave $10,000. Stephens Inc. executive Curt Bradbury gave $10,000. The Arkansas Farm Bureau gave $15,000. SAM Action, a national organization against legalized marijuana whose financial backers aren’t disclosed, gave $25,000.
Still looking for the financial filing by the group, Informing Arkansas, pushing Issue 6. It is advertising heavily.