Arkansas Voters Consider More Than Just Candidates
Every election cycle, the Arkansas legislature has the opportunity to place as many as three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. The legislature exercised that right and placed all three amendments on this year’s ballot.
Issue 1 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution concerning elected officials. The amendment would extend the terms of county elected officials from two years to four years. Beginning in 2018, if the amendment is approved, county elected officials will begin serving four year terms.
Issue 2 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that would allow the governor to retain his or her powers and duties when absent from the state. Today, if the governor leaves the state of Arkansas the lieutenant governor assumes the role of acting governor, followed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. In 2013, the lieutenant governor, serving as the acting governor while the governor was out of the state, signed a bill into law – an unprecedented move that this bill would prevent from happening again, if approved.
Issue 3 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to encourage job creation, job expansion, and economic development. The amendment would remove the five percent cap on general obligation bonds issued under Amendment 82 with the hope of attracting large economic development projects to the state.
In addition, through the petition and signature gathering process, one additional constitutional amendment and one initiated act will also appear on the ballot.
For an initiated act to be placed on the ballot, eight percent of the qualified voters who cast ballots for governor in the last general election must sign a petition. For a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, 10 percent of qualified voters must sign a petition.
The most controversial measure to appear on this year’s ballot is the legalization of medical marijuana.
Issue 6 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution making the medical use of marijuana legal under state law. Commonly referred to as the Medical Marijuana Amendment, it would allow physician-certified cannabis for limited medical purposes.
According to a recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey, 50% of likely voters support issue 6 and the legalization of medical marijuana.
Two additional constitutional amendments, Issue 4 and Issue 5, and one initiated act, while still appearing on the ballot, have been disqualified by the Arkansas Supreme Court and votes will not count.
Issue 4 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to limit attorney contingency fees and non-economic damages in medical lawsuits. The Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified Issue 4 because “non-economic damages” was not properly defined in the ballot title.
Issue 5 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to allow casinos to operate in Boone County, Miller County and Washington County.
Issue 5 was disqualified by the Arkansas Supreme Court because the ballot title did not “honestly and accurately reflect what is contained in the proposed amendment.”
The most controversial Supreme Court ruling came on October 27, four days after early voting started, on the disqualification of Issue 7, an initiated act also making the medical use of marijuana legal under state law. Known as the Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7 would also allow for physician-certified cannabis as well as a “hardship certificate” for those living too far away from dispensaries to grow limited amounts for medical purposes.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 opinion that Issue 7 was disqualified from the ballot because it “failed to meet the constitutional requirements.” Supporters of Issue 7 are certain to file a request for a rehearing. Many supporters were found protesting outside the Arkansas Supreme Court last week following the ruling chanting “my vote should count,” as many have already voted for Issue 7 and believe their vote should be counted.
Don’t forget to vote, even if your vote won’t count.