Special Master Sam Bird said today that the proposed minimum wage initiated act had sufficient valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The Arkansas Supreme Court will review the decision and make the final call.
A committee led by Randy Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, had sued. It raised technical challenges to signatures, including that enough legitimate signatures had not been submitted initially to qualify for a “cure” period of an additional 30 days of signature gathering. Bird rejected most of the arguments.
Bird, a retired Court of Appeals judge, had been named to consider facts in the case. As in a separate petition challenge on term limits, he didn’t address constitutional objections to the law covering paid canvassers. Backers of the petition drives contend they place an undue burden on the petition rights of people who pay canvassers, as opposed to those who rely strictly on volunteers.
Bird, for example, refused all claims about the legibility and proper application of notary seals to petition pages.
Bird also found against arguments (which had some success in the other case) challenging signatures should because of variances between addresses given when paid canvassers registered with the secretary of state and their “current” address as shown on petitions they circulated. Many canvassers come from out of state. They have permanent residency there. But they reside in Arkansas temporarily and, in this campaign, were instructed to list as their residence on the petitions where they spent the night, which might change as they travel. Bird noted the ambiguity in the law and commented:
The meaning of these phrases in $7-9-601 should be determined within the context of their use. The obvious purpose of requiring addresses for canvassers is to ensure that the SOS (or anyone having a reason) can contact a canvasser if there arises any need to do so. A canvasser may travel all over Arkansas in a matter of
days, thus unlocatable by the SOS, while always locatable through a domicile address. The statute recognizes this purpose by providing that if one’s current residence address is different from his permanent domicile address, the latter must also be provided.
To require a canvasser to record his “current residence address” upon his registration form is therefore a trick question to be answered by the canvasser according to what he then considers to be his residence address, and answered in another way (where he is staying at the time) when completing the canvasser block
on the petition part, which is apparently the petitioner’s interpretation of the term.
This was a key issue. Had Bird accepted Zook’s argument that the differences were violations of petition law, he could have invalidated more than 14,000 signatures.
He invalidated 582 signatures because cards signed by canvassers listed the wrong sponsor for the petitions. The canvassers were gathering for multiple proposals.
Bird also said the secretary of state’s office had improperly culled more than 19,000 signatures originally submitted. He concluded:
Adding this number (19,335) to the number of signatures that the SOS determined to be valid on July 30, 2018 (52,t124), it is clear (and I find) that sponsor’s petition exceeded the minimum number of signatures (68,861), required to qualify it for placement
on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Even if the 2,058 voter signatures obtained by canvassers who initially registered with P.O. Box addresses are considered by this Court to be invalid the number of valid signatures still exceeds by 1,514 the minimum number (67,887) required for certification of the issue (71,459 – 2,058=69,401.):
Though a final Supreme Court ruling could change the outcome, the campaign for Issue 5, to increase the $8.50 minimum to $11 by 2021 will begin its campaign tomorrow.
On September 25 at 11:30 am, community leaders, businesses, and hard-working Arkansans will gather for a kick-off press conference in support of Issue 5, a measure on the ballot this November that would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $11.00 an hour by 2021. If passed, the measure would mean a raise for 300,000 Arkansans, or 1 in 4 workers in the state.
Kristin Foster, Campaign Manager, Arkansans for a Fair Wage
Capi Peck, Owner, Trio’s
William El-Amin, Eudora Police Chief and Leader with Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Bruno Showers, Senior Policy Analyst, Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families
Said David Couch, an attorney for the fair wage campaign:
“Judge Bird did make the correct decision. There was no allegation of forgery, illegality or any impropriety. What the Chamber was trying to do was disenfranchise tens of thousands of Arkansas voters based on alleged clerical or technical errors such as someone leaving the last letter off their name or a smudged notary seal. The people’s constitutional right to propose a law should prevail. Regnat Populus.”