Go to ...

News in Arkansas

Arkansas News Online

RSS Feed

November 24, 2017

Arkansas Ballot Deep with Amendments, Initiatives (Kelly P. Kissel Analysis)


LITTLE ROCK – Remember all the times in the past 20 years when Arkansas voters were so overwhelmed by ballot questions that they just voted against everything?

It didn’t happen.

In the last 10 general elections, voters have considered more than three dozen issues on statewide ballots, including constitutional amendments, initiated acts or referred questions that ran the range from barring gay marriage, changing the state’s tax structure or expanding gambling across a Bible Belt state.

Voters have approved more than two-thirds of the ballot issues they’ve considered since 1996, which perhaps explains why, come November, some people in the state will consider more questions than they do candidates.

In the past week, the final sets of petition signatures came in for a proposed ballot issue that would establish casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties and a separate effort to legalize medical marijuana. Another medical marijuana measure is set already to go before voters.

If the latest ballot questions are approved, and pass any possible court challenges this fall, Arkansas voters will have seven proposals to consider before leaving their polling station.

That could be more than the number of races they’ll decide.

Each voter will have three federal races to consider – president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House – and some voters will see contests for the state House and state Senate. Depending on the number of local contests, and whether their legislative races are still contested, it’s possible some people will consider twice as many ballot issues as they will races for political office.

While they’re generally listed at the end of the ballot, constitutional amendments and initiated acts are not afterthoughts. To some degree, they could be considered more important than races with candidates: people leave office eventually. Unless a court intervenes or a later vote supersedes, constitutional amendments can last, essentially, forever.

While some ballot issues can be as exciting as reading actuary tables – like giving the state authority to borrow money for roads or economic development projects – each one has an implication down the road.

  • On highways and projects, voters have said it is OK to spend money tomorrow to pay off debt Arkansas incurred yesterday.
  • In 2008, voters approved a state lottery to pay for college scholarships, deciding that threatened social ills shouldn’t trump an effort to increase the state’s percentage of college-educated residents.
  • In 2004, three-quarters of Arkansas voters defined marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, joining a movement across several states. The U.S. Supreme Court decided otherwise.

Last fall, The Atlantic magazine detailed how ballot fatigue may lead to a lot of “no” votes – in essence, the longer the ballot, the more likely voters will reject issues put before them. However, in the four general elections since 1996 when Arkansans have seen five or more ballot issues to consider, they’ve voted “yes” on them 81 percent of the time.

Knowing that, is it any surprise that groups backing various issues would seek to place questions directly before voters, rather than try to push a bill through the Legislature or a policy through a state agency?

Legislators have placed three issues before voters, and four voter-backed questions are in the works. The Legislature suggests:

  • increasing the terms of most county offices to four years, relax restrictions on what crimes prevent people from holding office and remove unopposed candidates from ballots;
  • letting the governor retain power while out of state; and
  • removing a cap on bonds the state can issue to attract employers.

Through the petition process, two issues are already on the ballot:

  • a medical marijuana plan; and
  • limiting non-economic damages in lawsuits against health care providers.

Awaiting certification are:

  • another medical marijuana plan; and
  • a bid to allow casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

Given that Arkansas is a state where voters gave its backing to a Republican governor, a Democratic senator and a segregationist presidential candidate in 1968, how the ballot issues turn out is anybody’s guess.

Kelly P. Kissel has been Arkansas news editor for The Associated Press since 1994. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/kisselAP and go here to find his recent work.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

LITTLE ROCK – Remember all the times in the past 20 years when Arkansas voters were so overwhelmed by ballot questions that they just voted against everything?

It didn’t happen.

In the last 10 general elections, voters have considered more than three dozen issues on statewide ballots, including constitutional amendments, initiated acts or referred questions that ran the range from barring gay marriage, changing the state’s tax structure or expanding gambling across a Bible Belt state.

Voters have approved more than two-thirds of the ballot issues they’ve considered since 1996, which perhaps explains why, come November, some people in the state will consider more questions than they do candidates.

In the past week, the final sets of petition signatures came in for a proposed ballot issue that would establish casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties and a separate effort to legalize medical marijuana. Another medical marijuana measure is set already to go before voters.

If the latest ballot questions are approved, and pass any possible court challenges this fall, Arkansas voters will have seven proposals to consider before leaving their polling station.

That could be more than the number of races they’ll decide.

Each voter will have three federal races to consider – president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House – and some voters will see contests for the state House and state Senate. Depending on the number of local contests, and whether their legislative races are still contested, it’s possible some people will consider twice as many ballot issues as they will races for political office.

While they’re generally listed at the end of the ballot, constitutional amendments and initiated acts are not afterthoughts. To some degree, they could be considered more important than races with candidates: people leave office eventually. Unless a court intervenes or a later vote supersedes, constitutional amendments can last, essentially, forever.

While some ballot issues can be as exciting as reading actuary tables – like giving the state authority to borrow money for roads or economic development projects – each one has an implication down the road.

  • On highways and projects, voters have said it is OK to spend money tomorrow to pay off debt Arkansas incurred yesterday.
  • In 2008, voters approved a state lottery to pay for college scholarships, deciding that threatened social ills shouldn’t trump an effort to increase the state’s percentage of college-educated residents.
  • In 2004, three-quarters of Arkansas voters defined marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, joining a movement across several states. The U.S. Supreme Court decided otherwise.

Last fall, The Atlantic magazine detailed how ballot fatigue may lead to a lot of “no” votes – in essence, the longer the ballot, the more likely voters will reject issues put before them. However, in the four general elections since 1996 when Arkansans have seen five or more ballot issues to consider, they’ve voted “yes” on them 81 percent of the time.

Knowing that, is it any surprise that groups backing various issues would seek to place questions directly before voters, rather than try to push a bill through the Legislature or a policy through a state agency?

Legislators have placed three issues before voters, and four voter-backed questions are in the works. The Legislature suggests:

  • increasing the terms of most county offices to four years, relax restrictions on what crimes prevent people from holding office and remove unopposed candidates from ballots;
  • letting the governor retain power while out of state; and
  • removing a cap on bonds the state can issue to attract employers.

Through the petition process, two issues are already on the ballot:

  • a medical marijuana plan; and
  • limiting non-economic damages in lawsuits against health care providers.

Awaiting certification are:

  • another medical marijuana plan; and
  • a bid to allow casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

Given that Arkansas is a state where voters gave its backing to a Republican governor, a Democratic senator and a segregationist presidential candidate in 1968, how the ballot issues turn out is anybody’s guess.

Kelly P. Kissel has been Arkansas news editor for The Associated Press since 1994. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/kisselAP and go here to find his recent work.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Stories From Arkansas Business