The Arkansas State Legislature is allowed to refer up to three constitutional amendments to the ballot for each general election. On Monday, it sent its third and final amendment to the 2020 ballot. The amendment would change the requirements for ballot initiatives and legislatively referred constitutional amendments.
This amendment, HJR 1008, was designed to do the following:
- increase the state’s distribution requirement by requiring that a petition must contain valid signatures equaling at least half of the percentage required for the total petition from each of 45 counties instead of the current requirement of 15 counties;
- require a three-fifths supermajority vote of both chambers of the legislature to refer a proposed constitutional amendment to voters;
- eliminate the option for petitioners to collect extra signatures for 30 days if the petition fails to meet the signature requirement if the petition meets a 75 percent threshold;
- require challenges to the sufficiency of any ballot measure or ballot measure petition to be filed no later than April 15 of the election year; and
- require signatures for citizen initiative petitions to be submitted to the secretary of state by January 15 of the election year rather than the current deadline of four months before the election.
The amendment passed in the House on April 4, 2019, in a vote of 68-20. The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 25-10 on April 8, 2019. In the House, the amendment passed largely along party lines with 64 of 68 voting Republicans in favor and 16 of 20 voting Democrats opposed.
The two other measures referred to the 2020 ballot would (1) make permanent a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund transportation otherwise set to expire in 2023, (2) change term limits for state legislators. Citizen initiatives can still qualify for the 2020 ballot.