In a recent Arkansas Times column, Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, explores the history of how Arkansas' ballot and initiative process has evolved.
Arkansas is actually a pretty liberal state for allowing citizen-proposed initiatives access to the ballot. It is one of only 24 states that allow for citizen efforts and it requires much smaller percentages of participation than other states that have erected substantial thresholds to meet.
Arkansas is one of only three southern states with this mechanism. Moreover, the other two southern states — Mississippi and Florida — are places where the tools of direct democracy have relatively rarely been employed. In Mississippi, the percentage of voters' signatures that must be g
ained is significantly greater than in Arkansas; in Florida, the practice is relatively new and a supermajority of votes cast is necessary to allow the measures to go into effect.
Barth examines the activity and success rate of ballot proposals during the past 70 years. Interestingly, passage rates have improved in modern times versus earlier decades when there were more proposals on the ballot.
With the flaws in the petition process we've seen this cycle and the elimination and potential elimination of several efforts, the subject is timely.
Read more here.