LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — An Arkansas bill would make it harder for initiatives to get on the ballot.
Senate Bill 260 would require signatures to come from 50 counties in the state. Right now, Arkansans have to get signatures from at least 15 counties to get an issue on the ballot.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Republican Rep. Kendon Underwood, said the bill would ensure more Arkansans get a say on what gets on the ballot.
“Special interest groups can come to our state, and they can try and change our laws, change our constitution, but just getting signatures from more populated counties which are typically larger counties. But by doing that, they can ignore the rest of the state, the more rural counties,” Underwood said.
While Misty Orpin with Common Ground Arkansas said it will hurt Arkansans’ ability to make their voices heard.
“The more counties that you have to go to, the harder it is for everyday Arkansans to get things on the ballot because you have to get so much more money to do that,” Orpin said.
The bill would also raise the number of signatures needed in each county from 1/2 of registered voters who cast votes in the gubernatorial election to 3/4 of registered voters. Orpin worries that’s going to violate the Arkansas constitution.
“Only the voters of Arkansas have the power to change the constitution,” Orpin said. “We have the authority to do that, the legislature does not.”
Underwood said increasing the counties and signatures threshold, which are provisions in the Arkansas Constitution, is not unconstitutional.
“There’s an opportunity for the legislature to raise that, but can’t go below that floor,” Underwood said.
A Senate committee endorsed SB260 Thursday. The bill is on the Senate floor agenda for Monday.