Sen. Trent Garner rolled out this alibi yesterday in an interview with KATV and his mentor, Sen. Tom Cotton, shoveled it to the Democrat-Gazette today defending the Republican-led effort to pass people-trampling Issue 3, a constitutional amendment proposed by the legislature that is meant to stifle popular ballot petition campaigns to enact laws and amend the Arkansas Constitution.
This is simple. The amendment is meant to strangle petition campaigns. Anyone who argues otherwise is a liar.
Consider what Cotton said in the D-G:
It will give all Arkansans, especially those in a rural county, an equal say when it comes to amending our constitution, so it’s one reason why I am urging all Arkansans to vote yes on Issue 3.
This is false.
First, a petition campaign doesn’t amend the Constitution, a popular vote by ALL Arkansans does that. One woman/one vote. All.
Second, the amendment requires petitioners (along with many other devious restrictions) to gather a certain percentage of signatures in 45 counties rather than the current 15 counties. By Cotton’s own misleading statement, ALL counties still won’t have a say. There are 75 counties.
But that’s not the real problem. The Cotton argument is essentially speaking up for a process akin to the electoral college to qualify a petition for the ballot. It will make lightly populated counties essentially more influential than bigger ones.
Cotton is right about one thing. Petitioners concentrate on the most populous counties for most signatures. It is most cost-effective for campaigns using paid canvassers.
The amendment would require canvassers for an amendment to get 5 percent of the vote cast for governor in 45 rather than 15 counties. Canvassers would have to venture up to, for example, Marion County to round up 250 signatures. This is much harder both in the costs of dispatching more people greater distances to more places but also because it is hard to round up signatures in lightly populated areas. Fewer Walmarts.
Also, the amendment takes away the signature “cure period,” which exists now. If a challenger can find a single one of the 250 Marion County signatures to disqualify — say on account of a notary screwup — it couldn’t be fixed if the petitioners had no margin for error. The whole petition drive would be dead.
Because of the difficulties, the small-county rule essentially gives them a roadblock to the will of the majority. This is exactly what the Republican Party, the Farm Bureau, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Trent Garner and Tom Cotton want. They didn’t want the people approving things like a minimum wage increase or medical marijuana. They didn’t want, and beat by legal technicalities, a proposal this year to end gerrymandering and to guarantee election winners had majority support of voters by changing the primary election process. Both gathered sufficient signatures but were thwarted by new statutory roadblocks upheld by the court.
Farm Bureau hypocrisy is high. It backed popular drives of yore to make abortion illegal in Arkansas and to prohibit gay people from adopting children. But it is said to be concerned about “liberal” proposals from the people. Yes, majority rule is pretty liberal. Except when it isn’t.
Do you want honesty? That came in the D-G article from Kristin Foster, leader of Protect Arkansas Rights, a group formed to opposed Issue 3.
.. the “current initiative process ensures that all Arkansans, not just politicians and the lobbyists who back them, have a say over the policies put before voters.
“Issue 3 is an attempt by politicians and special interests to take power away from the people. Protect our rights, and vote no on issue 3.”
More here from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families on what’s wrong with Issue 3.
Strike out the legislature, Vote No on Issues 1 (sales tax increase), 2 (ending term limits) and 3.