Arkansas Supreme Court Restores Much of Draconian Law

Thu, Mar 19 2015 by Paul Jacob

The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed most of Circuit Judge Mary McGowan’s previous ruling, which declared numerous provisions of Act 1413 to be unconstitutional restrictions on the rights of Arkansans seeking to petition their government. Legislators passed the Act back in 2013.

The statute creates an incredibly intrusive process for registering and regulating paid petitioners – and due to the scope and vagueness of the statute, likely requires many volunteers to also register and be regulated by state authorities. Under the law, petition circulators must register and provide a photo (mug shot) to the state, as well as inform state authorities of their whereabouts while gathering signatures. Numerous petition experts – including Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob – testified that this information would be publicly available, allowing those hired to harass and “block” petition circulators (something that has been happening with greater frequency in Arkansas and elsewhere) to track them on a nightly basis.

One of the few parts of Act 1413 that the state supreme court agreed was unconstitutional is a provision requiring that if one signature on a petition was found to be outside the county listed on the petition, all the signatures would automatically be thrown out as invalid, even if all the remaining signatures were in the correct listed county and found to be validly registered voters.

In her excellent dissent, Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote, “In short, while Act 1413 does not eliminate the rights to initiative and referendum outright, the effect of its pervasive changes to the petition process will beget such a result—it is death by a thousand cuts. Accordingly, I would hold that Act 1413 is unconstitutional in its entirety.”

Read the court’s majority decision and dissent:

Southwest Arkansas Times: Arkansas Supreme Court Reinstates Most of 2013 Law on Petition Process