A lawsuit was filed today in Pulaski Circuit Court to strike two legislatively-proposed constitutional amendments from the ballot for the failure of their ballot titles to describe the changes they’d bring to state law.
The plaintiff is Tom Steele; the lawyer, David Couch of Little Rock, a frequent player in ballot initiative law.
The lawsuit challenges:
- HJR 1008, which is intended to make it harder to put ballot initiatives on the ballot by voter petition. It sets an earlier deadline, requires significant numbers of signatures from more counties, eliminates a “cure” period when initial petitions are held to fall short, and requires challenges of measures to be filed almost nine months before an election. The lawsuit says the ballot title discloses none of these changes, though under past court decisions it is supposed to give voters a “fair understanding” of the measure. It also contains multiple changes in the law, a standard by which the court has invalidated some past ballot proposals.
- SJR 15, which all but eliminates term limits for Arkansas legislators. It would set a 12-year limit on consecutive service for anyone elected in 2021 or after, against a current 16-year limit (which can actually be 22 years depending on draws for Senate terms after censuses). But after a four-year break, legislators could run again, including those who served 16 to 22 years under the old term limits. The lawsuit said this proposal is misleading because the ballot title doesn’t disclose different sets of rules for legislators depending on when they were elected. It also fails to disclose the elimination of lifetime limits.
In summary, the lawsuit says ballot titles of both amendments fail to provide facts about the amendments and an impartial summary.
The suit asks that Secretary of State John Thurston be enjoined from placing the amendments on the ballot and form counting any votes on them.