One other Supreme Court holdover: On election petition law | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One other Supreme Court holdover: On election petition law

Posted By on Sat, Jan 3, 2015 at 6:45 AM

Lawyer David Couch reminds me of one other notable lawsuit left hanging at the end of the Arkansas Supreme Court's term for 2014 that now might have different personnel voting on the outcome.

It is the challenge of Act 1413 of 2013, which was aimed at making it harder to place initiatives on the ballot through the petition process. Circuit Judge Mary McGowan ruled that the law unconstitutionally imposed new restrictions and erred particularly in setting tougher standards for paid canvassers than non-paid canvassers. Support for the law came from the business community and particularly from the Oaklawn and Southland casinos, which would prefer not to have to contend with efforts to broaden casino gambling in Arkansas beyond the existing duopoly.

Paul Spencer of the grassroots good government group, Regnat Populus, and Neil Sealy of Arkansas Community Organizations were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. It drew support from across the spectrum, including some conservative voices that have been active in past initiative campaigns.

The state appealed the ruling. Briefing was completed in the case Nov. 4. The Supreme Court has been silent since.

I noted yesterday that the appeal of the same-sex marriage ruling, completed Nov. 19, still has not been decided by the court, along with a couple of other cases argued in December.

In the November election voters approved a constitutional amendment, Issue 2, aimed at making it harder to petition for the ballot, but it didn't cover ground in the law that was struck down by McGowan. It set a threshhold of 75 percent valid signatures in an initial submission before a petition drive could qualify for additional time to gather more signatures. Previously, petitioners needed only to submit a sufficient number of signatures, but they didn't have to be fully validated in the initial count for an extension of time. Error rates on signatures have varied dramatically in past petition campaigns.

Presumably this case, if it has not been decided an an opinion completed but not filed for some reason, will have to be "reconferenced" like the marriage case so that new Justices Robin Wynne and Rhonda Wood may weigh in.

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