Arkansas Lawsuit Challenges New Anti-Initiative Law

Fri, Oct 11 2013 by Neal Hobson

Yesterday, the ACLU of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of two citizens of the Natural State seeking to overturn Act 1413, a statute that establishes cumbersome restrictions on paid signature gatherers and provides new byzantine rules designed to disqualify whole petition pages of valid signatures due to the smallest of mistakes.

Earlier this year, we worked with Arkansans from all across the political spectrum in opposition to Senate Bill 821, which Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob called “designed to make it difficult or impossible for citizens to run successful ballot campaigns.” While we were successful in removing several unconstitutional and draconian provisions from the bill, the legislation remained an atrocious assault on the petition rights of Arkansans, and it passed with an emergency clause that put it immediately into effect as Act 1413.

“The effect … of the Act is to discourage Arkansans from engaging in petition drives and to drive up the expense for those who do still venture to exercise the rights given to them by the Arkansas Constitution,” said Bettina Brownstein, who filed the lawsuit for the ACLU and APLC, along with David Couch. “Act 1413 is an attempt to make the initiative and referenda process so difficult and expensive that few sponsors, if any, will attempt to use this direct legislative process and for those that do try it, the expense will likely be burdensome.”

The case is Spencer v. Martin and was filed in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas. The plaintiffs are Paul Spencer, the leader of Regnat Populus, and Neil Sealy, the executive director of the Arkansas Community Organization. In addition to the legal complaint filed yesterday, the plaintiffs also filed a motion for preliminary injunction and a brief in support of that motion.

In a statement released by the ACLU, the group noted how Act 1413 violates the state constitution regarding the right to initiative and referendum: “Article 5, §1, of the Arkansas Constitution explicitly grants to the people the power ‘to propose legislative measures, laws, and amendments to the Constitution’ and states that ‘no legislation shall be enacted to restrict, hamper or impair the exercise of the rights herein reserved to the people.’ Article 2, §4 states the right of the people to petition the government ‘shall never be abridged’. The ACLU and APLC contend that provisions of Act 1413 constitute restrictions that hamper and impair the rights of Arkansans granted by Article 5, §1 and Article 2 and are asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of the Act and a permanent injunction declaring the challenged provisions of the Act unconstitutional.”

Citizens in Charge has been working with attorneys Brownstein and Couch on this legal action, and our president, Paul Jacob, is expected to testify in the case as an expert witness.

Arkansas Times: Lawsuit filed over new restrictions on initiative/referendum process

Spencer v. Martin – Complaint Complaint.pdf

Spencer v. Martin – Motion for Preliminary Injunction - Motion .pdf

Spencer v. Martin – Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction - Brief.pdf