Voters to Decide Constitutional Changes in November Arkansas Supreme Court Keeps Issue 4 on Ballot
Important positions such as governor and secretary of state are on the Arkansas ballot this year, but voters should also know about the policy decisions they’re being asked to make via constitutional amendments on the November 8 ballot.
Arkansas voters have a free resource available to learn more about the four proposed constitutional amendments. The Public Policy Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has published neutral voter guides about statewide ballot issues since 2004. Download the guide at uaex.uada.edu/ballot or pick up a printed copy from the Arkansas County Extension Office.
The Ballot Issues
Arkansas is one of 15 states where legislators and citizens have the right to place issues on the ballot for voters to decide. The 2022 ballot includes three proposed constitutional amendments from the legislature and one proposed amendment from the citizen initiative process.
Below are summaries of the four proposals on the ballot. Early voting starts October 24, 2022.
Issue 1 – A constitutional amendment to allow the General Assembly to convene in extraordinary session: This constitutional amendment would give state legislators the same authority as the governor to call themselves into special session and to set the agenda. (uaex.uada.edu/issue1)
Issue 2 – Constitutional Amendment and Ballot Initiative Reform Amendment: This constitutional amendment would increase the percentage of votes needed to pass constitutional amendments and citizen-initiated state laws in future elections. Currently, ballot issues pass with a simple majority of voter approval. Issue 2 proposes increasing the percentage to 60%. (uaex.uada.edu/issue2)
Issue 3 – Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment: This constitutional amendment would add language to the Arkansas Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from burdening the practice of religion in Arkansas unless the government shows there’s a compelling reason to do so and acts in the least restrictive way. (uaex.uada.edu/issue3)
Issue 4 - Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment: This constitutional amendment would change Amendment 98, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016, and create a new amendment that when combined would authorize licenses to grow and sell marijuana for recreational purposes. It would also allow adults 21 and older to buy and possess 1 ounce of marijuana for non-medical purposes, among other things. (uaex.uada.edu/issue4)
Issue 4 Votes Will Count
Arkansas Supreme Court justices recently ruled in favor of counting votes cast on Issue 4, and said state election commissioners can’t stop ballot issues from appearing on the ballot by declining to certify the titles. The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ruled that a recreational marijuana proposal from Responsible Growth Arkansas would stay on the ballot. The citizen initiative group had collected at least 89,151 voter signatures from across the state, but saw its ballot title labeled misleading by the state’s election commission. The Arkansas Supreme Court
Responsible Growth Arkansas collected at least 89,151 voter signatures from across the state to place Issue 4 on the ballot, but had to appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court to qualify for the ballot after state election commissioners said its ballot title was misleading to voters.
A 2019 state law injected election commissioners into the ballot issue process. Previously, the Attorney General would certify ballot titles. Supreme Court justices said the change in the 2019 law (Act 376) was unconstitutional and the constitution requires the board to certify ballot titles.
The court opinion also clarified that ballot titles do not necessarily have to include every potential affect of proposed constitutional amendments or state laws on the ballot. Opponents had said Issue 4 failed to inform voters of marijuana packaging changes and that limits on how much THC could be in medical marijuana edibles would be removed.
For More Information
A limited number of printed voter guides will be available at the Arkansas County Extension Office. The guide includes more in-depth information about each proposal, including what for/against votes mean and what supporters and opponents have to say. Contact the Arkansas County Extension Office at (870)659-2058 to request a presentation about the ballot issues for your organization or group.
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