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Lawsuit filed challenging new law raising number of counties needed to place constitutional amendment on ballot

by Neal Earley | March 10, 2023 at 7:45 p.m.
FILE — The Pulaski County Courthouse is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The League of Women Voters of Arkansas and state Sen. Bryan King filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a newly passed state law that increases the number of counties needed to get an initiated act or constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Prior to the law’s passage, ballot petitions needed signatures from voters in at least 15 counties around the state. Act 236 increases the number of counties to 50.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, plaintiffs allege the law violates the state’s constitution, which prescribes how voters can get questions on the ballot.

Article 1, Section 5, of the Arkansas Constitution requires “it shall be necessary to file from at least fifteen of the counties of the State” to get initiated acts or constitutional amendments on the ballot.

“This law was not passed in the best interest of Arkansans, and it will hamper the grassroots efforts of Arkansans to propose their own laws and to hold the General Assembly accountable,” King, R-Green Forest, said in a news release. “We should not diminish the power of our citizens. Let the people have their voices heard.”

Supporters of Act 236 say the law is about ensuring rural representation in the ballot petition process by requiring voters from more counties around the state are involved. The Senate approved the bill Monday, sending it to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who signed it into law the following day.

Senate President Pro Tempore Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said earlier this week the law would protect the state from out-of-state billionaires wanting to influence Arkansas politics through ballot questions. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kendon Underwood, R-Cave Springs, did not return a request to comment.


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