The Arkansas Supreme Court today appointed retired Circuit Judge Kathleen Bell as a special master to review Secretary of State John Thurston‘s refusal to certify petitions submitted by Arkansas Wins 2020 for a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize 16 more casinos in the state.
Thurston disallowed most signatures because of what he found to be flaws in complying with rules requiring background checks for paid canvassers. Arkansas Wins contends it complied with the rules.
The court directed Thurston to begin counting signatures and also gave the committee a 30-day cure period to obtain more signatures under the presumption, subject to ultimate change, that its original submission met the 89,000 facial threshold for signatures. It also provisionally certified the amendment to the ballot.
The final brief is due Sept. 4. The court also allowed a committee financed by existing casinos to intervene in the case in opposition.
Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justice Shawn Womack would have denied the provisional certification. Womack said he would have preferred an expedited briefing schedule with a final deadline in advance of the statutory deadline for certification. As it is, the amendment may appear on the ballot though the votes might not be counted if the Supreme Court ultimately rejects the Arkansas Wins appeal. Justice Rhonda Wood joined Womack on his partial dissent.