Arkansas Voters File Lawsuit to Count Petition Signatures
FAYETTEVILLE, AR— Today, the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, filed a lawsuit in a federal court seeking to reinstate the Arkansas Voters First-initiated constitutional amendment calling for a fair, citizen-led redistricting process on the November ballot. Arkansas Voters First collected nearly 150,000 signatures from Arkansas citizens in support of their initiative, which was certified by the Arkansas Secretary of State to appear on the general election ballot.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Arkansas rejected Arkansas Voters First’s petition based on a hyper-technical issue related to the certification of criminal background checks of paid canvassers. There was no dispute that any of the paid canvassers were guilty of any crime that would prevent them from being a canvasser. The Court’s decision prevents Arkansans from being able to exercise their constitutional right to vote for or against an independent redistricting commission this November. The decision allows politicians to continue choosing their voters through unfair redistricting practices.
“Given the technicality the court used to remove our amendment from the ballot, we owe it to the 150,000 registered Arkansas voters who signed our petitions to exhaust every legal avenue,” said Bonnie Miller, League of Women Voters of Arkansas member and Arkansas Voters First chairperson. “The voters who signed our petition deserve the right to vote on an independent redistricting commission. We will continue to fight for them until they are allowed to vote for fair maps in our state.”
The suit filed today argues that invalidating the ballot initiative because of a technical issue silences the voices of Arkansas voters and presents an undue burden on voters’ first amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. The ballot initiative campaign is part of People Powered Fair Maps, a nationwide campaign from the League of Women Voters to achieve fair district maps in all 50 states and DC.
“The Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the signatures of 150,000 voters on a hyper-technical requirement blatantly disregards voters’ first amendment rights,” said Deborah Turner, board president for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “The voices of Arkansas voters deserve to be honored – the Secretary of State must count the signatures of his constituents, thereby honoring the oath of office he took to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of Arkansas.”
The League of Women Voters and Arkansas Voters First are represented in this case by Campaign Legal Center.
“Arkansans have the right to decide whether their district maps should be determined by voters or self-serving politicians,” said Ruth Greenwood, co-director, voting rights and redistricting at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “If voters are denied access to the ballot in November, Arkansas could be stuck with another decade of gerrymandering. People nationwide are demanding a more responsive government, and Arkansas voters have shown they are ready for fair maps.”
A ruling in favor of Arkansas Voters First would give Arkansans the opportunity to vote for People Powered Fair Maps on November 3.