Pro-Abortion Group Claims Secretary of State “Unlawfully Rejected” Its Petitions

On Thursday the group backing an abortion amendment in Arkansas sent Secretary of State John Thurston a letter alleging his office “unlawfully rejected” its petitions.

Arkansans for Limited Government submitted petition signatures to the Secretary of State last Friday to place an abortion amendment on the November ballot.

Arkansas law tasks the Secretary of State with counting and validating the petition signatures before certifying a measure for the ballot. Petitions that do not comply with state law must be disqualified.

On Wednesday the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office disqualified all of the petitions for the Arkansas Abortion Amendment for failing to properly identify paid canvassers who collected signatures for the abortion measure, as required by state law, and for failing to file a signed statement verifying that each paid canvasser was provided a copy of the most recent edition of the Secretary of State’s initiative and referenda handbook and given an explanation of Arkansas’ legal requirements for obtaining petition signatures.

Arkansas law says a person filing petition signatures with the Secretary of State must bundle the petitions by county and file an affidavit stating the number of petitions and signatures being filed.

If the signatures were gathered by paid canvassers, the law says the person filing the petitions with the Secretary of State must also identify the paid canvassers by name and file a signed statement verifying that each paid canvasser was provided a copy of the most recent edition of the Secretary of State’s initiative and referenda handbook and given an explanation of Arkansas’ legal requirements for obtaining petition signatures.

On Thursday Arkansans for Limited Government sent a letter to Secretary of State Thurston claiming the organization provided documents regarding its paid petition canvassers on June 27 — the week before it filed its abortion petitions — and alleging the Secretary of State does not have the authority to reject the petitions.

The letter does not address the fact that state law indicates the paid canvasser information must be submitted at the same time as the petitions.

Family Council has received documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act that show Arkansans for Limited Government hired more than 70 paid canvassers after June 27. The letter does not specifically address whether these canvassers were provided information and training in compliance with state law.

While the abortion measure has been disqualified for failing to comply with state law, legal experts have pointed out the Arkansas Abortion Amendment would prevent the State of Arkansas from restricting abortion during the first five months of pregnancy — which is more extreme than Roe v. Wade — and would allow thousands of elective abortions on healthy women and unborn children every year.

The measure also contains various exceptions that would permit abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy in many cases.

The amendment does not contain any medical licensing or health and safety standards for abortion, and it does not require abortions to be performed by a physician or in a licensed medical facility.

It also nullifies all state laws that conflict with the amendment, jeopardizing basic abortion regulations — like parental-consent and informed-consent requirements that both sides of the aisle have supported in the past.

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.

Here’s A Brief Overview of Why the Arkansas Abortion Amendment Petitions Were Disqualified

On Wednesday the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office disqualified all of the petitions for the Arkansas Abortion Amendment. The disqualification means the petition signatures cannot be used to place the abortion amendment on the November ballot.

In a letter on Wednesday, the Secretary of State indicated his office rejected the petitions for failing to comply with a state law that former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed in April of 2013.

The letter noted that the sponsors did not file a statement identifying the paid canvassers who collected signatures for the abortion measure, as required by state law.

The letter also indicated the sponsors failed to file a signed statement verifying that each paid canvasser was provided a copy of the most recent edition of the Secretary of State’s initiative and referenda handbook and given an explanation of Arkansas’ legal requirements for obtaining petition signatures.

In 2013 the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 1413 by former Sen. Keith Ingram (D – West Memphis) and former Rep. John Vines (D – Hot Springs) amending state laws concerning ballot initiatives and paid petition canvassers.

As the Secretary of State’s letter notes, Act 1413 requires a ballot initiative’s sponsor to list any paid canvassers employed in collecting signatures, and it requires them to file a statement confirming that each paid canvassers was given a copy of the state’s initiative and referenda handbook as well as an explanation of relevant state laws before he or she solicited petition signatures.

Act 1413 of 2013 passed with overwhelming support in the Arkansas House and Arkansas Senate. The law was challenged in court, but the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld it in 2015. Act 1413 has been on the books ever since.

This is the first time Family Council is aware of that a ballot initiative was disqualified because its sponsors failed to properly comply with Act 1413 of 2013.

While the abortion measure has been disqualified for failing to comply with state law, legal experts have pointed out the Arkansas Abortion Amendment would prevent the State of Arkansas from restricting abortion during the first five months of pregnancy — which is more extreme than Roe v. Wade — and would allow thousands of elective abortions on healthy women and unborn children every year.

The measure also contains various exceptions that would permit abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy in many cases.

The amendment does not contain any medical licensing or health and safety standards for abortion, and it does not require abortions to be performed by a physician or in a licensed medical facility.

It also nullifies all state laws that conflict with the amendment, jeopardizing basic abortion regulations — like parental-consent and informed-consent requirements that both sides of the aisle have supported in the past.

On Wednesday Arkansans for Limited Government — the group sponsoring the abortion amendment — posted on X that it had received the Secretary of State’s letter and said, “We will send out a statement when we have decided on a path forward.”

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.

BREAKING: Secretary of State Disqualifies Abortion Amendment Petitions for Failing to Comply With State Law

Above: Pro-lifers gather at the capitol as petitions for the abortion amendment are delivered to the Secretary of State in this file photo from July 5, 2024.

The following is a press release from Family Council Action Committee.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 10, 2024

On Wednesday the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office disqualified the petitions for the Arkansas Abortion Amendment due to the petitions’ failure to identify paid canvassers by name as required by state law.

Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “This is good news. The people who supported this amendment ran an aggressive petition campaign. But Arkansas law is very specific about how petition signatures are supposed to be collected and submitted. The Secretary of State has made the right decision by disqualifying these petitions that did not comply with the law. We appreciate the Secretary of State’s diligence in reviewing these petitions and commitment to upholding state law.”

Cox said he is confident the abortion amendment would not have passed even if it reached the ballot. “Over the past several weeks we have seen a groundswell of pro-life opposition against the abortion amendment. Arkansans do not support abortion on demand, and that is what this amendment would have brought to Arkansas. This amendment would have legalized abortion for any reason during the first five months of pregnancy and abortion up to birth in many cases. The amendment did not include any medical licensing or health and safety standards for abortion. Those are fatal flaws, and I am confident Arkansans would have rejected the amendment had it made it to the ballot.”

###