Issue 3 is the “Initiative Process and Legislative Referral Requirements Amendment”. Can you tell what it will do by the name? If not, you’re not alone, and the rest of the amendment isn’t written any more clearly. A better name for it is “The Petition Killer” and it’s a direct attack by politicians and special interest groups on the constitutional rights of Arkansans.
For roughly 100 years, our state constitution has guaranteed Arkansans the right to circulate and sign petitions to get the issues we as ordinary Arkansans care about on the ballot through Initiative & Referendum. This serves a vital purpose in our state and was put in place because a past generation of Arkansans realized that our state government wasn’t working for all Arkansans but rather only for the people running our government and those who could buy it. So our state constitution was amended to say: “The legislative power of the people of this State shall be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of the Senate and House of Representatives, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose legislative measures, laws and amendments to the Constitution, and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the General Assembly; and also reserve the power, at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any entire act or any item of an appropriation bill.” (Article 5, Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution.)
The importance of this feature of our state constitution cannot be understated. If our government is ignoring important issues, we the people can act. If our government goes to far we can reign it in. Corruption cannot reign unmitigated if we the people choose to reign it in. All this coming from the Initiative & Referendum. It’s a power that’s there for all the citizens of Arkansas to use, regardless of party, ideology, or what issue you might care about. We may not agree with everything we see on our ballots or see every issue we support win and we can always decline to sign, but we at least have the ability to exercise our voice in our state politics and government.
Now though, Issue 3 threatens to silence our voices.
This Petition Killer was introduced at the very last minute possible in the 2019 session and rushed through with as little debate and public input as possible. Both conservative and liberal opponents spoke out against it in a rare and remarkable moment of agreement between people across the spectrum. Still, members of the Arkansas state legislature pushed it through. Why? Because the Chamber of Commerce and other well financed special interest groups wanted them too. The state representative and state senator that sponsored the amendment even admitted as much. (Source.) Think about that, members of your state government talking openly about how well financed special interest groups with millions to spend on lobbying and campaign contributions got them to do their bidding and push an amendment to our constitution that will take your rights away…
But Issue 3 doesn’t come right out and say it’s going to strip your rights to petitioning and ballot access away. It disguises that fact in wordy and confusing language that’s nearly impossible for the average person to decipher. It’s a blatant attempt to trick Arkansans into disenfranchising ourselves.
Issue 3 will make three big changes to our state constitution that will make it functionally impossible for ordinary people to use the petition process:
- It will shorten the time allowed to gather signatures. Currently, the Arkansas Constitution allows Arkansans to circulate petitions up until four months before the election. Issue 3 will drastically shorten that time and require them to be submitted for validation by January 15th.
- It will dramatically increase the number of counties signatures will have to be gathered from. The Arkansas Constitution requires that Arkansans circulating petitions gather a required percentage from 15 counties to have their petition placed on the ballot. This number both makes sure that the issues presented have significant public interest/support to merit going before the people and is reasonable enough that ordinary Arkansans without much money can meet the requirement. Issue 3 will dramatically increase the number up to two-thirds of the counties in the state, or 45 counties.
- It will eliminate the 30 day period our constitution allows to gather more valid signatures. Right now our constitution contains a reasonable provision that allows Arkansans who get at least 75 percent of the valid signatures another 30 days to gather more. This is called a “Cure Period”. Issue 3 will totally strip that provision from our Constitution.
The combined effect of these three changes will be to make it so that ordinary Arkansans without a great deal of money will not be able to successfully petition to get the issues we care about on the ballot. If Issue 3 passes, only special interest groups with a great deal of money will be able to decide what we can and can’t vote on.
For these reasons, Issue 3 must be defeated.
Say NO to the Petition Killer. PROTECT your rights and your voice.
VOTE NO ON ISSUE 3 IN NOVEMBER!