DYK: Arkansas One Of Several States With More Ballot Issue Options
Did you know? One hundred years ago Arkansas joined a few western and northern states in adopting the citizen initiative process, which gives citizens the ability to propose new laws to fellow voters on the ballot.
Fast forward to today and Arkansas is one of 15 states where citizens can propose a (1) constitutional amendment, (2) state law, and (3) a referendum on a recent law passed by the legislature. Many states have an initiative process but may limit the type of proposal citizens can make.
The recent 2020 election saw Arkansas voters reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would have changed the citizen initiative process, specifically requiring groups to collect voter signatures from more counties than currently required to qualify their issue for the ballot.
Ballot issue groups in Arkansas must collect voter signatures from at least 15 counties across the state, representing a certain percentage of the number of people who voted for governor in the last election. The rejected 2020 proposal would have required signatures from at least 45 counties.
Petitions must include signatures equaling:
- 6% for referendums
- 8% for state laws
- 10% for constitutional amendments
In each of those 15 counties, the petition must have signatures from 5% of the number of people who voted for governor in that county's last election. In 2020, citizen groups needed at least 89,151 valid voter signatures to qualify their issues for the ballot. Two proposed constitutional amendments that went through this process ultimately failed to qualify for the ballot because of problems with the paperwork of the people collecting signatures.
Where are these 15 states?
States allowing amendments, state laws and referendums
North Dakota (1914)
South Dakota (1898)
*The ability for Arkansas citizens to petition voters was first put in place in 1910, though it wasn’t cemented in law until 1925 when the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld Amendment 7 of 1920 that spelled out the citizen initiative process that is in the Constitution today.
Want to know more? See this 2019 analysis from the Public Policy Center comparing the different requirements for citizen initiatives across the United States.