Bill raising number of signatures needed to add ballot measures heads to Sanders’ desk

Absentee ballots come out of a printer on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020 at the Benton County Clerk's Office. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Absentee ballots come out of a printer on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020 at the Benton County Clerk's Office. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)


The Arkansas Senate on Monday approved a bill that would require sponsors of proposed ballot measures to collect sufficient signatures of registered voters from at least 50 counties, up from the current requirement of 15 counties, to qualify their measures for the ballot.

With five senators voting present, the Senate voted 21-8 to send House Bill 1419 by Rep. Kendon Underwood, R-Cave Springs, to Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Supporters of the bill said it would require sponsors of proposed ballot measures to get more statewide and rural support for the measures to qualify for the ballot, while opponents said it would violate the Arkansas Constitution and make it more difficult to get proposed ballot measures on the ballot.

Sponsors of proposed initiated acts are required to obtain the signatures of Arkansas registered voters equal to at least 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to qualify their proposals for the ballot. Sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments are required to obtain the signatures of Arkansas registered voters equal to at least 10% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to qualify their proposal for the ballot.

HB1419 would require the sponsors of proposed ballot measures to collect sufficient signatures of registered voters from at least 50 counties rather than the current requirement of at least 15 counties. The number of signatures of registered voters required from these 50 counties would be one-half of the designated percentage of registered voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.

Sen. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, told the Senate the Arkansas Constitution requires sponsors of ballot measures to turn in signatures of registered voters from at least 15 counties to qualify their measures for the ballot and “that’s the floor,” and state lawmakers have the authority to increase the requirement.

But Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said the bill clearly violates the Arkansas Constitution.


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