Just over 50 percent of Arkansas' registered voters cast a ballot in the November election.
Counties in west central Arkansas were among areas with both the highest and lowest voter turnout.
According to a “Year in Review & Looking Forward to 2020” from the Public Policy Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, when it came to ballot issues in 2018 fewer people voted on the three statewide measures than did in the governor's race. However, the difference was not as wide as in past years.
At 56.19 percent voter turnout, Scott County was among the top 10 counties in the state with the highest voter participation. Logan County was among the lowest voting counties at 45.29 percent participation.
Pike County had the highest percentage voter turnout at 61.76 percent. Crittenden County had the lowest voter turnout in the state at 40.92 percent.
Other top 10 voter turnout counties were Van Buren, Perry, Monroe, Montgomery, Prairie, Conway, Chicot and Clark. Other lowest voting counties were Miller, Phillips, Lee, Nevada, Columbia, Lonoke and Union.
Other facts on the state’s voting this year:
• More voters cast ballots on Issue 5, the minimum wage proposal, than the other two measures. Some 884,830 people voted on this measure. Arkansas' minimum wage is set to increase Jan. 1.
• Supporters for establishing casinos in Arkansas raised the most money — $9.8 million in contributions — for their constitutional amendment campaigns, according to numbers obtained by the Policy Center from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
92nd General Assembly
Arkansas senators and representatives will meet in January for the next legislative season. A few legislators have filed their proposed bills early.
As of Dec. 17, three proposed statewide ballot measures have been filed covering two specific topics.
The next session starts Jan. 14 at the Capitol in Little Rock. Follow the bills being filed by going to www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2019/2019R/Pages/Home.aspx and clicking on "Search bills by range" or "Recently filed bills."
In 2017, legislators filed 31 proposed constitutional amendments for the 2018 ballot. Some of the topics overlapped and legislators ended up referring two of the proposals to voters.
Potential ballot issues from the public
The number of people who voted for governor in 2018 determines the number of signatures ballot issue groups will need to collect for the 2020 ballot.
Based on turnout, it appears that the signature threshold for 2020 increased by 5 percent over 2018, the policy center states.
For constitutional amendments, valid voter signatures need to be equal to 10 percent of the number of people who voted for governor. Based on 2018 election results, petitioners will need at least 89,151 valid signatures to be on the 2020 ballot.
For state law changes, ballot issues need valid voter signatures equal to 8 percent of the number of people who voted for governor. Based on 2018 election results, petitioners will need at least 71,321 valid signatures to be on the 2020 ballot.
The Arkansas Secretary of State's Office will be updating its "Initiatives & Referenda Handbook" in the coming months with instructions for petitioners, the policy center adds.
Before ballot sponsors can collect signatures, they must first have their ballot title and text approved by the Attorney General's Office. Since August, 10 sponsors have seen the wording of their proposals rejected. All but one of those proposals involved marijuana.
The wording for one proposed constitutional amendment was certified.
The attorney general is responsible for reviewing the language and titles of potential ballot issues submitted to voters by the public. Ballot issue groups can circulate petitions only after the attorney general verifies that the ballot title and popular name honestly, intelligibly and fairly describe the purpose of the proposed constitutional amendment or act.
The following are recent attorney general opinions regarding potential ballot issues:
Ballot proposals rejected
• Dec. 11, 2018 — Arkansas Ranked Voting Amendment — A proposal to allow ranked voting of candidates in Arkansas was rejected because its title was "misleading, internally inconsistent, and impermissibly tinged with partisan coloring," according to Opinion No. 2018-141. Gary Fults of Hensley submitted the measure.
• Oct. 26, 2018 — The Arkansas Regulation of Marijuana as Alcohol Amendment — A proposal seeking to remove marijuana from a controlled substance act and regulate it as an alcoholic beverage under state law was rejected because the ballot title was "wholly deficient in its attempt to explain what effect" the measure would have on current law, according to Opinion No. 2018-134. Mary L. Berry of Summit submitted the measure.
• Oct. 22, 2018 — An Act to Remove Marijuana from the Arkansas Uniformed Controlled Substances Act — A proposal seeking to remove state-level penalties associated with manufacturing, possessing and distributing marijuana was rejected because "it is impossible to determine from the measure's text how this proposed act would amend current law," according to Opinion No. 2018-132. Rebeca Rodriguez of Little Rock submitted the measure.
This was the second time this proposal has been rejected. See Opinion No. 2018-118 (Oct. 10, 2018).
• Oct. 10, 2018 — The Arkansas Regulation of Marijuana Amendment of 2020 — A proposal seeking to legalize marijuana in Arkansas, put its regulation under the authority of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, and to issue licenses to sell and possess marijuana was rejected. According to Opinion No. 2018-119, the proposal was a "convoluted state-wide decriminalization scheme that purports to include regulatory oversight" and its ballot title was misleading to voters. Larry B. Morris of West Fork submitted the measure.
This was the second time this proposal has been rejected. See Opinion No. 2018-100 (Aug. 29, 2018).
• Oct. 1, 2018 — Natural Resources Cannabis Amendment — A proposal to legalize marijuana and tax its sales was rejected because the ballot title was misleading and the proposal was "all-encompassing, overlong, and dense" to the point "it was not capable of having a ballot title that will satisfy the Court's test for ballot title sufficiency," according to Opinion No. 2018-113. Clair Danner of St. Joe submitted the measure.
This was the second time this proposal has been rejected. See Opinion No. 2017-120 (Nov. 20, 2017).
• Sept. 24, 2018 — Arkansas Cannabis Hemp and Recreational Marijuana Amendment — A proposal seeking to legalize the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, possession and use of recreational marijuana and hemp products was rejected the text was ambiguous and misleading, according to Opinion No. 2018-110. Kenneth Woodmansee of Mablevale submitted the measure.
• Sept. 19, 2018 — The Right to Grow Cannabis Amendment — A proposal that would establish a person's right to grow and possess cannabis plants on his or her land and to legalize the cultivation, possession, production and sale of marijuana was rejected because the scope of the right was vague and the proposal could not be adequately conveyed to voters in an acceptable ballot title, according to Opinion No. 2018-107. Larry B. Morris of West Fork submitted the measure.
• Sept. 19, 2018 — The Arkansas Marijuana Amendment 2020 — A proposal that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana was rejected because the ballot title was misleading and deficient in summarizing the substance of the proposal's changes to state law, according to Opinion No. 2018-108. Timothy S. Kelley of Jerusalem submitted the measure.
• Sept. 18, 2018 — The Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Amendment of 2020 for School Funding — A proposal seeking to legalize the use, processing, possession, production, consumption, manufacture and distribution of marijuana in Arkansas and to regulate it and tax the substance was rejected because the popular name was misleading, according to Opinion No. 2018-106. Lee Evans of Uniontown submitted the measure.
• Aug. 23, 2018 — Arkansas Cannabis Amendment — A proposal that would make possession and growth of marijuana for personal use by adults legal under state law, to regulate and to tax the substance was rejected because the ballot title did not give voters a complete understanding of how it would affect current state law, according to Opinion No. 2018-099. John W. Hall, Jr. of Little Rock submitted the measure.
This was the second time the proposal has been rejected. See Opinion No. 2018-076 (June 22, 2018).
Proposals approved for signature gathering
• Oct. 26, 2018 — An Amendment to Establish the Arkansas Citizens' Redistricting Commission — A proposal seeking to change how Arkansas' congressional and state legislative districts are established was approved with a cautionary note that the proposal's subject matter was complex and far reaching, according to Opinion No. 2018-135. This complexity could lead to a ballot title challenge, the opinion stated. David Couch of Little Rock submitted the measure.