As libraries come under increasing attack from the far right, Northeast Arkansas residents wanting to defund the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library are making an 11th-hour push to get the measure on the November ballot. But election officials are faced with the question of whether the supporters filed their petitions by the state deadline. And when is that deadline? It depends on whether you’re looking at state laws or the state Constitution.

Here’s the problem. Amendments 30 and 38 to the Arkansas Constitution provide for a 30-day window.

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Amendment 38, dealing with county libraries, says in part: “Whenever 100 or more taxpaying electors of any county having library tax in force shall file a petition in the County Court asking that such tax be raised, reduced or abolished, the question shall be submitted to the qualified electors at a general or special election. Such petition must be filed at least thirty days prior to the election at which it will be submitted to the voters.”

Amendment 30 deals with city libraries and also sets a 30-day window.

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But Arkansas Code 7-11-205 of 2020 provides for a 70-day window. It says in part that, to be held on general election day, a special election — as the Craighead County one would be — “shall be held not less than … [70] days following the date that the proclamation, ordinance, resolution, order, or other authorized document is filed with the county clerk when the special election is to be held on the date of the preferential primary election or general election.”

The petitions were filed Tuesday with the Craighead County clerk’s office, so they appear to have made the constitutional deadline but not the one in the state code.

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Daniel Shults, director of the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, said he was aware of the issue but declined further comment. He said he was “not sure it’s our place to make that determination.” Asked if that decision would be left to the courts, he would not say.

There’s also another issue: We’re told by another election commission employee that ballots already have been distributed statewide.

We wrote yesterday that a woman named Sharon Stallings had turned in the petition signatures to cut the Craighead County Jonesboro Library’s millage funding in half, from two mills to one mill.

Today, County Clerk Lesli Penny tells us that her office has verified that the petitions for both city and county residents had more than enough signatures to be forwarded to the county’s Election Commission. That panel then decides whether to put the issue on the ballots.

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