Secretary of State John Thurston has asked the Supreme Court to vacate earlier rulings allowing two constitutional amendment drives 30 days to gather more signatures.
He says his office has completed a review of the signatures initially submitted and both amendments fell short of having the required number of registered voters to qualify for a “cure” period.
The drives had to submit petitions with 75 percent of the required roughly 89,000 being registered voters.
Thurston says the drive for an amendment to create a non-partisan legislative redistricting commission had signatures of 64,722 registered voters, needing 66,864. He said the drive for open primaries had 62,634 (or perhaps 586 more that a special master said should have been counted.)
The districting drive has submitted 50,000 more signatures and the open primary drive submitted 50,000 more today and urged the Arkansas Supreme Court to let the people have a say. Thurston, a Republican, argues they are irrelevant because neither drive qualified for a cure period. He’s asking the Supreme Court to vacate orders allowing additional signature gathering. If it agrees, it would effectively kill the amendments.
Backers of the amendment are challenging Thurston’s initial count.
The Republican Party has formed a committee to fight both amendments and it has been spending money on legal fees in that effort so far.
Today is the day the secretary of state must submit ballot questions to county election commissions for inclusion on the ballot.
Including these amendments today wouldn’t prevent the court from subsequently ordering that votes on the measures not be counted if it rules in favor of those challenging the amendments.
The complicated process applied to popular ballot questions is a product of business lobby and Republican Party efforts to make petitioning (currently a right protected by the Arkansas Consitution) so difficult as to be all but impossible. Restrictions are particularly onerous for paid canvassers. The petitioning this year was made more difficult by the pandemic and social distancing efforts.
The Supreme Court issued a variety of orders today but only noted the cases over the ballot measures had been submitted. No indication was given when a decision might be expected.