Federal Judge P.K. Holmes has issued his final order directing Secretary of State John Thurston to accept signatures on petitions for a constitutional amendment that haven’t been witnessed by a canvasser or attested to in a notarized statement.
The judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by people hoping to qualify an amendment to establish a non-partisan commission to draw legislative and congressional boundaries after the 2020 Census. Under current law, the legislature draws congressional boundaries and a partisan commission draws legislative districts.
The final order differs little from what the judge say in a preliminary order Monday. He declined to lower the requirement for more than 89,000 signatures or to extend the July 3 deadline. He also didn’t approve electronic signatures, though he indicated some inclination in that direction.sep
My reading of this order is that it will apply to any petition effort, not just the redistricting commission proposal. A casino amendment is new in the hopper, for one. A number of others may or may not go forward under the new difficulties. A separate lawsuit is challenging requirements for candidate petitions.
The judge wrote:
While the Secretary of State may continue to accept signatures in support of initiative petitions that are obtained and verified under the State’s present framework, for so long as Arkansas law requires initiative petitions to be signed in the presence of a canvasser and supported by a sworn affidavit, the Secretary of State must accept as compliant with Arkansas law any petitioner signatures and signature pages in support of an initiative petition that were not circulated
and signed in the presence of a canvasser and any canvasser affidavits that, if unsworn, are declarations made under penalty of perjury, so long as all other requirements that do not conflict with the Court’s orders in this case are sufficiently met
He then sets out the form of the paragraph that should be at the top of petitions and statements from petitioners.