I'm glad to see that the League of Women Voters and my friend Senator Bryan King have filed a lawsuit challenging Act 236, which makes it more difficult for initiated acts to go on the ballot. A similar proposal was put on the ballot in 2022, and it was roundly rejected by the voters in our state. If legislators had to pay out of pocket for defending these unconstitutional bills instead of taxpayers footing the bill, they may think twice about forcing them through.
Dubbed The Ensuring Access for All Arkansans and Voter Protection Act of 2023, Act 236 requires that signatures from at least 50 counties must be collected and turned into the Arkansas Secretary of State to qualify for the ballot - prior to this the gathering of signatures from just 15 counties were required. This changes the initiative process by increasing over 300% the number of counties in which signatures must be collected. Sen. King is right when he says it will hamper the grassroots efforts of Arkansans to propose their own laws and to hold the General Assembly accountable.
The Attorney General has declared he will be vigorously defending the law which is a waste of taxpayer money since this law is clearly unconstitutional and goes against what the voters have spoken out against. Senate Pro Temp Bart Hester has stated that this act protects us from the potential of out-of-state billionaires trying to influence our politics with ballot measures, but that’s nothing more than a smokescreen. The only people who could afford to get such measures on ballots now with these increased requirements are those same billionaires, creating a threshold that can only be met by the dark money they claim to be protecting us from. This act would only hurt everyday Arkansans who don’t have access to large amounts of capital or resources necessary to get their initiatives on the ballot.
If unchecked, Act 236 sets the precedence for legislators to subvert democratic principles while ignoring public opinion and dismantling the citizen-led ballot imitative process. We must remain steadfast in ensuring that all people’s voices are heard so that laws represent everyone in Arkansas rather than just special interests or those in positions of power.