Your rights as a voter are significantly at risk this election year
In the addition to your right to vote for candidates to represent you, as an Arkansan you also have the right of direct democracy to propose laws yourself for consideration of voters when they cast their ballots. But there’s an effort underway to limit that right.
Every two years, the Arkansas General Assembly can also propose three ballot measures for voters’ consideration at the election. In 2019, the Legislature voted to put forward Issue 3 in 2020, which would make it almost impossible for citizens themselves to put measures on the ballot that would create new laws or amend the constitution. And if Issue 3 passes, only politicians, usually with the support of powerful lobbyists, and the highest-financed special interest groups will be able to put forth ballot measures in the future. Effectively, if Issue 3 passes, your right to direct democracy will be taken away.
If everyday Arkansans couldn’t propose ballot measures, the minimum wage in Arkansas would still only be $8.50 an hour. But in 2018, because of a citizen-led ballot measure, over 68 percent of Arkansas voters approved an increase in the pay of hardworking people. Because of that initiated act, the minimum wage is $10 an hour, and it’s set to go up to $11 an hour in January 2021.
What would Issue 3 do? It would make it much more difficult for citizen-led ballot measures to collect the signatures they need to get their proposal on the ballot. It would more than double the requirement for the number counties where signatures would be collected, from 15 to 45 counties. More signatures required means more money would have to be spent to collect signatures; so only the biggest, best-financed campaigns could succeed in moving their measure forward. It would also decrease the amount of time citizens can collect signatures for ballot measure petitions by about six months, adding yet another barrier to signature collection.
But the right of everyday Arkansans to propose ballot measures is critical for the future of our state. Many laws that would help Arkansans, like increasing the state minimum wage, have stalled in the state General Assembly because of the influence of lobbyists. Arkansas voters should have the right to decide if our state should increase funding for early childhood education, expand access to health care, or pass comprehensive government ethics reform. But politicians and big money interests want to take that right away. And they’ve made the description of Issue 3 that will be on the ballot very vague so Arkansas voters won’t know what it would do. Many people won’t know that they are being asked to restrict their rights.
Arkansas is one of only 14 states in which citizen initiatives go straight to the voters for consideration. This gives Arkansans like you more power than the citizens of most other states. We should carefully guard that right.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families opposes Issue 3, because we see it as critical threat to improving and protecting the well-being of Arkansas’s kids. We urge you to vote against Issue 3 this November.