The Arkansas Supreme Court building Benjamin Hardy

An ideologically diverse group of government transparency advocates announced Tuesday they’re suing Attorney General Tim Griffin over his refusal to certify a proposed ballot measure that aims to enshrine the state Freedom of Information Act in the Arkansas Constitution.

Griffin has twice rejected proposals from Arkansas Citizens for Transparency, saying the group’s amendment lacked clarity and contained other defects. ACT submitted a third version of the amendment on Jan. 8, and today is the deadline for the attorney general to rule on their latest submission.

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(The group has also submitted a second proposed ballot measure, an initiated act, alongside each proposed amendment; the intention is for the amendment and the act to both appear on the ballot and work in tandem to preserve the FOIA.)

ACT said earlier this month that it would likely file a lawsuit against Griffin over his repeated rejection of their proposals. To get a ballot measure (or measures) before voters in the November 2024 election, a group must first collect tens of thousands of signatures across the state. But under current law, it can’t begin that arduous process until the attorney general gives the green light.

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“Each day the Attorney General delays approval of the popular name and ballot title makes the Petitioner’s effort to collect the signatures more difficult and burdensome,” ACT said today in its complaint.

ACT member Nate Bell, a former Republican state legislator turned independent, announced the news on Twitter today. The group also includes Bentonville attorney Jennifer Standerfer, Little Rock attorney David Couch, conservative pedagogue Rob Steinbuch, Democratic state Sen. Clarke Tucker and the Arkansas Press Association, among others.Here’s the complaint, which was filed directly to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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“I am confident in our review and analysis of ballot submissions and look forward to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s review in this case,” Griffin said through a spokesman Tuesday.

The complaint says:

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The Attorney General’s rejection of the ballot title and popular name demonstrates that he has either a complete lack of understanding of his role in the initiative process or he is intentionally thwarting the effort of the petitioner to get this amendment approved for the ballot so that the voters of the state can decide its merits. It is not the Attorney General’s right to effectively decide the fate of this measure by denying approval of a popular name and ballot title. In addition, the Attorney General is not the final arbiter of the sufficiency of a popular name or ballot title. That role belongs with this Court. The Attorney General’s role is specified in the text of Ark. Code Ann. §7-9-107. The Attorney General by denying approval of the popular name and the ballot title is acting outside the scope of his statutory duties and interfering with the constitutional rights of Petitioner. This Court should compel the Attorney General to approve or rewrite the popular name and ballot title for each measure submitted by the Petitioner.

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