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Proposal to drop Pope County as casino site draws 103,000 signatures, group says

by Michael R. Wickline | July 8, 2022 at 5:57 p.m.
John Burris (right) with Fair Play for Arkansas unloads petitions at the Arkansas secretary of state's office on Friday, July 8, 2022, in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ax Pope County as a casino site turned in about 103,000 signatures of registered voters on Friday as part of their attempt to qualify their measure for the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 committee said it had petitions with 103,096 signatures of registered voters, and it turned them in to the secretary of state's office late Friday afternoon. Officials in the secretary of state's office will check the signatures to determine whether the committee turned in sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, or whether it has 30 additional days to collect more signatures.

The signatures of 89,151 registered voters are required to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment for the general election ballot.

"We're extremely grateful for the support from voters across the state who signed our ballot petitions, allowing us to submit the signatures required to qualify for the ballot and move onto a statewide campaign," said Fair Play spokesman Hans Stiritz.

Canvassers will continue to collect signatures in the coming weeks in anticipation of multiple legal challenges, he said.

But attorney David Couch said he doubted that the committee turned in sufficient valid signatures to qualify for the 30-day cure period to collect more signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. Couch represents Cherokee Nation Businesses, which has the license to build a casino in Pope County. 

“Considering the historical validity rate of petitions in the state of Arkansas, as well as the population of registered voters, indications are strong ... they will not meet the minimum numbers required to initiate the petitions," Couch said.

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