Phew — minimum wage petitions barely meet initial test | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Phew — minimum wage petitions barely meet initial test

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM

The secretary of state's office has announced that the petition campaign for an increase in the state minimum wage HAS met the minimum on raw signatures to qualify for the validation process. There wasn't a lot of breathing room.

The measure requries 62,507 signatures of registered voters to be on the ballot. The backers had to turn in that number, with a minimum allotment of voters in 15 counties, to initially qualify for the validation process. If the petitions fall short of the total required after validation they'll be given 30 additional days to meet the minimum.

I'd mentioned this morning some concerns that the drive might fall short of meeting the 62,507 requirement on its face, before validation. It has taken the secretary of state's office longer to validate these petitions than those submitted for a constitutional amendment to allow alcohol sales statewide. And the margin was narrow. The initial count was over the minimum by only about 1,500, which meant more than 10,000 of the signatures originally submitted were facially invalid.

I had noted concerns earlier about the petition drive. Signature gathering had stopped, but the drive did a final weekend of canvassing before the July 7 deadline.

Organized labor and Democratic groups have contributed to the petition drive. The measure, if it qualifies for the ballot, is expected to be a popular campaign issue for Democratic candidates, who support it uniformly. Republicans oppose a minimum wage increase by initiative, despite polling that indicates broad popular support.

In addition to gathering 8 percent of the vote cast for governor in the last election overall, petitioners for an initiated act must have signatures from at least 15 counties with at least 4 percent of the vote cast for governor in each of those counties. No word yet on how narrow the petitioners' margin in meeting the 15-county test on facial review of signatures.

The secretary of state's office said:

(July 16, 2014) Little Rock, Ark. –Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin announces An Act to Increase The Arkansas Minimum Wage has met the initial signature count requirement. The amendment needed 62,507 signatures; the initial count was over 64,000. The Secretary of State’s Office is now moving to the signature verification stage. Meeting the initial count qualifies the petition sponsor for an additional 30 days to collect signatures, to compensate for any that may be disqualified during the signature verification process.

We will continue to update you as information becomes available.

You just about to have to assume that the validation process will leave the petition in need of more signatures in the 30-day cure period. At a good 75 percent validation rate, they'll need more than 15,000 good signatures, which means 20,000 or more raw signatures in 30 days. They'll need a better canvassing effort than produced originally. And there may yet be a challenge to the process so far by those who oppose a minimum wage increase.

UPDATE: The Friday Law Firm, old pros at fighting and working for petition campaigns, have been monitoring the wet/dry alcohol petitions. So-called county line liquor stores, with lucrative business threatened by statewide sales, are a likely suspect for someone who'd like legal counsel. Sarah Parks of Certa Financial and the Ritter Law Firm have asked to inspect the minimum wage petitions. Bilenda Ritter-Harris of Ritter Law is an associate counsel for the Arkansas Republican Party and she confirms she's reviewing them for the party.

A spokesman for the secretary of state said the closest any of the 15 identified counties came to missing the required minimum was about a 40-vote margin on one of the 15 counties targeted by the minimum wage drive.

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