Jan 12, 2024 - News

What to know about proposed ballot measures in Arkansas

Illustration of a ballot box and question mark sticker.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Aside from presidential candidates, potential citizen-initiated acts or amendments to the state constitution may be the most debated items for Arkansans on the November ballot.

State of play: Citizen groups are working to draft ballot titles and amendment language for approval by Attorney General Tim Griffin, which is the first step in the process.

  • If language is approved by the AG, each group can begin gathering signatures. A new law requires registered voters from 50 of the state's 75 counties, up from the previously required 15.
  • Signatures need to be collected by July 5 to get an issue on the ballot.

Why it matters: Any measure that makes it on the ballot allows Arkansans a voice in the state's laws.

  • The popular vote on measures could counter decisions made in previous general legislative sessions, or limit lawmakers' ability to change laws in the future.

Quick take: The proposals are in various stages, so here's a look at their current status and how each would modify Arkansas law:

Freedom of Information Act

Details: The group Arkansas Citizens for Transparency (ACT) is looking to codify a definition of a public meeting, and to broaden the legal definitions of a "governing body" and "communication" among members, per the Arkansas Advocate. Their measure also would:

  • Create stiffer penalties for violating the sunshine law.
  • Make planning and security services of the governor and other officials public after three months, partially reversing a law passed last year shielding those documents.

Status: Griffin rejected the first two proposals. ACT submitted revised language Tuesday.

Abortion

Details: The Arkansas Abortion Amendment would not allow state government to "prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion services" in cases of rape, incest, a fatal fetal anomaly or when, in a physician's medical judgment, abortion is needed to protect a pregnant person from death or injury.

Status: Arkansans for Limited Government submitted its third draft to Griffin on Monday.

The measure requires nearly 91,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

Education

Details: For AR Kids (FAK) submitted the Educational Rights Amendment of 2024 in December. The proposed constitutional amendment looks to apply "identical state academic standards" to all schools that receive local or state funds. It also would include:

  • Access to after-school and summer programs for education.
  • Assistance to children who are within 200% of the federal poverty line for education.
  • Support and services for students with disabilities.

Status: Griffin on Tuesday rejected the first proposed draft of the measure, claiming it used vague terms and violated the First Amendment.

  • FAK has not said when it intends to submit its next draft.
  • The measure requires nearly 91,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

Flashback: The group Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students failed to gather enough signatures in August for its proposal to repeal the LEARNS Act, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' sweeping education reform package.

What's next: Once a ballot committee has submitted its proposal, Griffin has 10 days to review the text and approve or reject it.

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