Petition Gatherers Face Tough Environment

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 95 views 

This year, Arkansans have seen concerted efforts to dissuade voters from signing petitions for potential initiated acts and constitutional amendments.

The two highest profile groups have made efforts to educate voters on the negatives tied to a casino proposal and Sheffield Nelson’s push for an increase in the severance tax. Proposal supporters have cried foul at the political tactic, although it is perfectly legal.

Other groups, such as a coalition aiming to reform the state’s campaign and ethics laws, have come late to the table in a push to meet an early July deadline to qualify a measure to reduce corporate campaign contributions and gifts to lawmakers.

For a citizen-led initiated act to qualify for the November ballot, it must receive 62,507 valid voter signatures. Constitutional amendments must receive 78,133 valid voter signatures to qualify for voter consideration. Both thresholds are tied to the number of voters in the 2010 Governor’s under rules laid out in state statutes.

Those campaigns getting a late start and those that have been disorganized will be attempting to capitalize on Election Day this Tuesday, May 22, to obtain the bulk of their signatures.

They are likely to face daunting odds and will surely find themselves scrambling after Election Day with paid canvassers going door-to-door or to events, like Riverfest, to find large groups of potential voters to help make their numbers.

Those that have been pursuing signatures for months will be in much better shape.

Based on prior years, roughly 20% of signatures get kicked out as invalid, so typically as an insurance policy, petition gatherers want 20% more to survive the review process.

In the instance of an initiated act, the target will be about 75,000 signatures, and for constitutional amendments, about 94,000 signatures at a minimum would provide the necessary buffer.

So far in the early voting period, we’ve seen more than 60,000 voters already cast ballots and several of these petition groups have missed the opportunity to pursue these early voters.

In previous years, early voting has accounted for about 1/3 of the total votes in an election. Applying that math, we’re only looking at around 120,000 to 130,000 votes being cast on Tuesday, May 22 statewide. If an exceptional turnout occurs, Election Day voting could reach 150,000.

If you need 94,000+ of those votes, you’ll have to get somewhere around 62-72% of voters on Election Day signing your petitions. For the 75,000+ initiated act threshold, 50-58% participation gets you to your goal.

There will be a full month and a few days after May 22nd to chase those signature goals, but as the math shows, the odds won’t be in favor of proposal supporters.