Congressional maps are enacted by the State General Assembly. The Governor can veto the plans.
The General Assembly can override a veto with a majority vote of all those elected. Republicans currently have veto proof majorities in both chambers.
Challenges to the maps are litigated in the State Supreme Court.
The Arkansas Board of Apportionment draws the state’s legislative districts and consists of the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. The Board has primary responsibility for legislative redistricting. On or before February 1 the year after each decennial U.S. Census, the Board will file its apportionment report with the Office of the Secretary of State. The plan will become effective 30 days after being filed unless it is revised by the Supreme Court of Arkansas during that same period.
Challenges to the maps are litigated in the State Supreme Court.
Source: Ark. Const. art. VIII, §§ 1-5.
Ballot Measure Process
Kinds of Ballot Measures
Direct initiatives and all referendums are permitted to amend statutes. Direct initiatives are permitted to amend the state constitution. Legislatively initiated ballot measures may amend both statutes and the Constitution.
There is no single-subject rule.
Initiative Subject Restrictions
There are no initiative subject restrictions.
The signature requirement for constitutional amendments is 10% of all votes cast for all candidates for governor in the previous general election, 8% for statutory amendments, and 6% for referendums. 891,509 people voted for a candidate for governor in the 2018 General Election in Arkansas, so 89,151 signatures are required for constitutional amendments, 71,321 signatures are required for statutory amendments, and 53,491 signatures are required for referendums. 15 of the state's counties must contribute signatures equal to half of the designated percentage of the electors of such county. For constitutional amendments, that number is 5%, for initiatives that number is 4%, and for referendums that number is 3%. County information can be found here.
Initiative petitions must be submitted no less than four months prior to the election in which the petition is to appear on the ballot (July 3, 2020; delayed by the holiday to July 6, 2020). Referendums must be submitted 90 days after the adjournment of the General Assembly.
There is no stated circulation period for initiative petitions.
Ballot Title and Summary
The ballot title and summary are written by the proponents, submitted to the Secretary of State for certification, and then delivered to the State Board of Election Commissioners. Expedited reviews for titles and summaries are permitted.
A fiscal impact statement is not required. Circulators must register with the Secretary of State. There are no supermajority requirements. The General Assembly cannot amend or repeal an approved measure, without a two-thirds supermajority vote. Initiatives are permitted on general election ballots, but not on primary or special election ballots or odd-year ballots.
Source: Ark. Const. art. V, §1. Ark. Code § 7-9 (2019). Arkansas 2020 Initiatives and Referenda Handbook
Active Ballot Measures
- Arkansas Citizens' Redistricting Commission Amendment (2020)
- Status: Not on the ballot
- Summary - This constitutional amendment would replace the current Board of Apportionment (made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general) with the 9-member Citizens' Redistricting Commission. This new commission would be responsible for legislative and congressional redistricting. The current Board of Apportionment is only responsible for legislative redistricting. Proponents had until July 6, 2020 (July 3rd by law, but delayed because of the holiday), to collect the signatures required. Arkansas Voters First, the group supporting the measure, sued for a one-month extension and to be able to gather signatures both electronically and without a witness signature. A federal district judge granted the request to waive witness signatures, but did not extend the deadline nor allow electronic signatures. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that order. Arkansas Voters First announced that they submitted over 100,000 signatures on July 6, 2020. On July 14, the Secretary of State wrote in a letter to Arkansas Voters First that the proposed amendment would not be placed on the ballot. The Secretary of State ruled that all signatures collected by AVF were invalid because petitioners certified that they acquired (rather than passed) criminal background checks on canvassers. A.C.A. § 7-9-601(b)(3) reads in part "... the sponsor shall certify to the Secretary of State that each paid canvasser in the sponsor’s employ has passed a criminal background check in accordance with this section." The case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The district court ruling to grant permanent injunctive relief was overturned because, in the opinion of the court, the in-person signature and notarization requirements were not subject to strict scrutiny, so First Amendment arguments fail on the merits. Litigation is ongoing in the State Supreme Court. On August 11, the Arkansas Secretary of State issued a Letter of Insufficiency determining that the number of signatures submitted by Arkansas Voters First was insufficient and therefore the measure does not qualify for a signature cure period or for the November ballot. On August 27, 2020, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the Secretary of State's determination that the petition was insufficient and therefore the petitioners did not qualify for a cure period or any other relief. More information on the Arkansas lawsuits are available here (state) and here (federal). On September 2, 2020, Bonnie Miller filed another lawsuit against John Thurston in federal court.
In The News
- Arkansas Judge Dismisses Suit Over Redistricting Proposal, AP (9/16/20)
- Districting Suit Likely to Lose, Judge Says - then Rules Against it, Arkansas Democrat Gazette (9/16/20)
- Court Takes Under Advisement Last-Ditch Plea on Constitutional Amendments, Arkansas Times (9/14/20)
- Group Sues Challenging Arkansas' Rejection of Petitions, AP (9/2/20)
- Arkansas Court Blocks Redistricting, Open Primary Measures, AP (8/27/20)
- Advocates Seek to raise Awareness of Redistricting Process and Challenges, Texarkana Gazette (8/22/20)
- Arkansas Amendments to Give Voters More Control over their Elections Advance to 2020 Ballot, Independent Voters News (8/21/20)
- Amendment Bids Certified for State Ballot, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette (8/21/20)
- Secretary of State Argues Two Proposed Amendments aren't Entitled to Gather more Signatures, Arkansas Times (8/20/20)
- Ad Push Begins for Nonpartisan Redistricting Amendment to End Gerrymandering, Arkansas Times (8/19/20)
- Special Master Says Unmeetable Canvassing Requirement Could Doom Open Primary and Legislative Redistricting Amendments, Arkansas Times (8/10/20)
- Drive for Nonpartisan Redistricting Amendment to File More Signatures Today, Arkansas Times (8/5/20)
- Arkansas Supreme Court Appoints Master on Ballot Petition Appeals, Arkansas Times (7/24/20)
- Arkansas Board Approves Ballot Title for Proposed Amendment, AP (7/23/20)
- Secretary of State Says Proposals don't Qualify for Election, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette (7/15/20)
- Arkansas Initiative Bids Turn in Signatures Amid Pandemic, AP (7/6/20)
- Anti-Gerrymandering Petition Drive Held in Northwest Arkansas, 4029 News (6/26/20)
- Appeals Court Stays Ruling Easing Arkansas Petition Rules, AP (6/15/20)
- Redistricting effort can collect signers by mail, but not electronically, Talk Business & Politics (5/26/20)
- Arkansas redistricting group seeks easing of petition rules, AP (4/22/20)
- Legislative redistricting amendment filed with Secretary of State, Talk Business & Politics (3/5/20)
- Lawmakers try to alter voter-approved redistricting reforms, AP (3/5/20)
- More states to use redistricting reforms after 2020 census, AP (3/5/20)