Case Summary

On April 22, 2020, several Arkansas voters and the organization Arkansas Voters First filed suit against John Thurston, acting in his official capacity as Arkansas's Secretary of State, alleging that enforcing the state's rules for gathering initiative petition signatures amidst the coronavirus pandemic impermissibly infringed upon their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to political participation, expression and association. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief barring the state's in-person signatures, witnesses, and notary requirements from being enforced and delaying the deadline for gathering signatures to August 3, 2020.

On May 29, 2020, the district court partially granted the plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, barring the Secretary of State from enforcing the in-person signature and notarization requirement but leaving the original petition signature deadline in place. On June 2, 2020, the defendants appealed the district court's injunction order and final judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, who issued a temporary administrative stay pending the appeal.

On July 23, 2020, the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion reversing the district court's judgment and permanent grant of injunctive relief, finding that Arkansas's in-person signature and notarization requirements did not constitute impermissible burdens on the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights and that the remaining issues on appeal were moot.

Case Library

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas - 5:20-cv-05070

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit - 20-2095