Apr 15, 2024 - News

How citizens change Arkansas' laws

Illustration of a hand crushing a ballot.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Voters could have a profound impact on the state's laws this November, depending on how many proposed issues make it on the ballot.

  • We're looking at the many questions that may be put to referendum.

Why it matters: Arkansas voters can change or reject laws enacted by the state Legislature through a citizen-initiated ballot process.

Any measure that makes it on the ballot allows residents to speak out with a vote this fall.

State of play: Attorney General Tim Griffin's office approved 14 separate initiatives on topics ranging from medical marijuana to overturning the LEARNS education act — from cutting taxes on feminine-hygiene products to the state's freedom of information law.

  • Not all of those will appear on the ballot.

How it works: Arkansas citizens can propose a ballot initiative as a state statute (a change to a law) or a constitutional amendment (a more significant change to the state's constitution).

The state AG must review and approve the popular name and ballot title for each citizen-initiated statute or amendment for it to move forward.

  • Once the language has been approved, which can take several attempts, citizens can begin the petition process.

Signature requirements vary for each of the three forms of citizen-initiated proposals, based on a percentage of the votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.

  • State statute changes require 8% (72,563 signatures); constitutional amendments require 10% (90,704); and veto referendums require 6% (54,422).
  • This year, signatures need to be collected by July 5 to get an issue on the ballot.

The fine print: Numbers alone aren't enough. A new law requires signatures to be collected from registered voters in at least 50 of the state's 75 counties, up from the previously required 15.

  • A complaint seeking to overturn the law was filed last year, but it may not be resolved in time to affect this year's process.

The bottom line: Just over 50% of registered Arkansas voters turned out in the midterm elections.

Our thought bubble: As the saying goes — you can't complain if you don't vote.

Go deeper: Tampons to autos — four proposed ballot measures in Arkansas

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