Earlier this week, the Secretary of State John Thurston revealed that the committee supporting a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the state-licensed casino site in Pope County did not manage to gather the necessary number of registered voters’ signatures in order to qualify for a 30-day extension of the right to collect more signatures to have the matter on the ballot.
Mr. Thurston explained that the committee, called Fair Play for Arkansas, had to submit a total of 66,864 valid signatures of registered residents in order to qualify for the cure period of 30 more days, but the number of votes verified by his office was 62,859.
As the Secretary of State shared in a letter to the Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 committee’s representative James Knight, sponsors are required to provide at least 89,151 valid signatures of registered Pope County voters in order to make sure the proposed constitutional amendment qualifies for the ballot.
After receiving the letter, dated August 8th, a spokesman for the committee revealed that Fair Play for Arkansas intends to review the information provided by Mr. Thurston in order to decide whether it would make any further efforts to pursue the inclusion of its proposal to the state ballot in November. The group’s representative praised the efforts of the committee’s canvassing team despite the fierce opposition faced by the proposal from the Arkansas Tourism Alliance.
Two Requirements Have to Be Met in Order for a Petition to Qualify for General Election Ballot
The certification that the sponsor of the proposal has submitted the required number of valid registered voter signatures that is issued by Arkansas’ Secretary of State is one of the two requirements that a petition needs to meet in order to qualify for the general election ballot that is set to be held on November 8th.
The other requirement that would see a measure become part of the state ballot is that the popular name and ballot title of the proposed measure is certified by the state Board of Election Commissioners under the existing state law. Under the provisions of Act 376 of 2019, the responsibility for certification of the proposed measure’s name and ballot title was shifted from the Attorney General to the Board of Election Commissioners.
A week ago, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners rejected the certification of the ballot title for the proposed constitutional amendment that pursues the removal of Pope County as a site to host a state-licensed casino. At the time, some commissioners noted that the ballot title lacked a reference to the existing casino operating permit held by Cherokee Nation Businesses. The board’s decision was found disappointing by the Fair Play Arkansas 2022 committee, which is now set to consider its options.
About a month ago, the group shared that it had presented a total of 103,096 signatures in a move to qualify its proposed amendment to the state constitution for the ballot.
A total of four casino licenses were approved under the provisions of Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution which was officially approved by state voters in November 2018. The licenses were allowed for the expansion of gambling operations at West Memphis-based Southland Casino Racing, Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs, as well as for casinos in Pope and Jefferson Counties. For the time being, casino venues are operational in West Memphis, Pine Bluff, and Hot Springs.
In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses was granted a casino license allowing it to build its Legends Resort & Casino. Pope County, however, has long been a source of controversy for the country and the state of Arkansas.