Today’s the deadline for submitting petitions to qualify constitutional amendments for the November ballot.
Petitioners must submit signatures of more than 89,000 registered voters, with minimum numbers from 15 counties. The secretary of state will review signatures today. If enough are disqualified to fall below the required number, petitioners have 30 days to gather more.
So far, we know petitions will be submitted on behalf of two efforts:
At 11 a.m., Arkansas Voters First will submit their petitions for an amendment to establish a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years. The former is now done by a partisan-controlled commission and the latter by the legislature. More details here.
UPDATE: The group submitted 98,000 signatures. It issued a release:
“This has been an enormous effort. So many people have been working tirelessly to help us qualify,” said AVF Chairperson Bonnie Miller. “The fact that over a hundred thousand Arkansans were willing to get out in a pandemic to show their support for this initiative shows the hunger people have for a more representative government.”
At 3 p.m., Open Primaries Arkansas will submit petitions for a change in primary voting that would end party primaries. If a candidate didn’t win a majority, the outcome would be determined at the general election by ranked-choice voting on the top four candidates. Here’s the amendment.
UPDATE: They turned in more than 94,000 signatures at 4:52 p.m. That’s enough to meet the original threshhold and qualify for more time if too many are disqualfied.
No word yet from Arkansas Wins 2020, a group trying to qualify an amendment that would legalize 16 casinos across Arkansas, each to be owned by an already-incorporated LLC of undetermined ownership. A Chicago investor has been the only announced contributor to the campaign so far, but the group is using a partially adapted website from a 2016 casino drive again this year. The amendment is here.
All three of these amendment drives are using paid canvassers, a process that would become more difficult if a legislature-recommended amendment restricting petitioning is approved by voters in November. A lawsuit is seeking to have that amendment struck from the ballot, however.
UPDATE: Little Rock lawyer Todd Wooten, who worked on the 2016 casino effort and this one, turned in about 97,000 signatures at 4:54 p.m. So it has made the first step to ballot approval, too.
Also: Fair Play for Arkansas has mounted a grassroots drive, with petition signup locations at churches around the state, to repeal the portion of a 2018 amendment that legalized a casino in Pope County. The failure of a court case to lift notary and witnessing requirements on petitioning and the lack of paid canvassers would seem to make this drive a long shot.
UPDATE: As I expected, the court setback didn’t help. A statement from the group:
Fair Play for Arkansas, a grass-roots Ballot Question Committee from Pope County, will not submit petitions by today’s deadline to place the removal of Pope County from Amendment 100 on the November 2020 ballot.
When we launched this campaign last month, a federal judge had ruled that signatures could be submitted on petitions without a notarized witness, which would have allowed our volunteer network to operate safely within the limitations of the pandemic. Unfortunately, that ruling was stayed and will likely remain overturned. Despite the challenges of collecting signatures during this time, we were extremely encouraged by the thousands of Arkansans across the state who enthusiastically supported our efforts.
Going forward, the citizens of Pope County will continue to fight for the same freedom from predatory gambling and intrusion on our community enjoyed by 71 counties in our state. We will use every available political, judicial, and legislative avenue to stop out-of-state interests from forcing their (elsewhere illegal) business into our community.
Thanks to the many volunteers and signers representing 65 counties across the state that recognized the injustice of Amendment 100 in Pope County, and to the hundreds of churches that participated in this effort. Many, many voters agree that no statewide mandate should affect an individual community that has clearly and repeatedly shown at the ballot box that it doesn’t want to participate in the exploitation inherent in the gambling industry.