FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Come November, people’s votes might not count for an initiative on the ballot.
Ballot initiative Committee Responsible Growth Arkansas (RGA) has been working since last year, trying to get recreational marijuana on the November ballot by collecting signatures.
“We turned in right around 193,000 which I understand is the most that’s ever been turned in,” Co-Counsel for RGA Steve Lancaster said.
That was well over the 89,151 required for a ballot initiative. The initiative process allows voters to put their own proposed measure on the ballot. It requires a successful petition and approval from the State Board of Election Commissioners.
“The ballot initiative process allows citizens to circumvent the traditional legislative process,” John Brown University Assoc. Professor of Political Science Dr. Daniel Bennett said.
It is a process meant to give you an opportunity to create change.
“Maybe there’s even a sense that the legislature is ignoring the will of the voters so this is a way to go around that,” Bennett said.
But the state still gets the final say.
“Maybe this is just another check on people’s democratic impulses. What the majority might think is best is maybe not in the best interest of the state,” Bennett explained.
When the recreational marijuana bill came up, the Board of Election Commissioners shot it down.
“It really thwarts the will of the people and their ability to initiate laws if this body is going to routinely reject them,” Lancaster said.
Now, RGA is taking it to the Arkansas Supreme Court, not just asking to get on the ballot, but asking for the ballot initiative rules to be deemed unconstitutional; a move that could change the ballot initiative process in the state forever.
Since the fate of the initiative is playing out in court, the measure will still appear on ballots. But, there is a chance those votes will not count, if the Supreme Court decides to uphold the Board of Election Commissioners’ original decision.