One of many services provided by the Lawrence County Extension Service is ballot issue education. Staff Chair Bryce Baldridge mentioned this service at Monday night’s Quorum Court meeting and shared the following with The TD to help educate our readers:

The 2020 Arkansas Ballot Issue Voter Guide, published by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Public Policy Center, is now available at www.uaex.edu/ballot.

Although Election Day is more than a month away, more Arkansans have requested absentee ballots this year because of COVID-19 concerns. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order in August allowing Arkansas voters to use absentee ballots if they had concerns about their health and COVID-19. County clerks will begin mailing out absentee ballots Sept. 18. Early voting begins Oct. 19 and Election Day is Nov. 3.

The Public Policy Center has published neutral fact sheets on statewide ballot issues since 2004 to help voters better understand what is being asked of them.

Various court challenges may impact what voters see on Election Day, but voters are urged to research the issues so they are prepared either way. Due to printing deadlines, the publication covers six statewide ballot issues. The online guide will be updated to reflect any court decisions.

This year, proposals include five constitutional amendments and a referendum. These issues are:

A permanent 0.5 percent state sales tax for state, county and city roads, bridges and other surface transportation (Issue 1)

Changing General Assembly term limits and allowing re-election upon a break in service (Issue 2)

Changing Arkansas’ citizen initiative process, votes required for legislative proposals, and publication requirements for legislative proposals (Issue 3)

The Arkansas Citizens’ Redistricting Commission Amendment (Issue 4)

Changing the state’s primary system for statewide and congressional offices to allow for a single ballot primary, with the top four candidates advancing to the general election for ranked choice voting and instant runoff if necessary (Issue 5)

A referendum on Act 579, a state law legislators passed in 2019 that amended the definition of “Practice of Optometry” (Issue 6)

Issue 1 is the only proposed constitutional amendment not being challenged in court. It was referred to voters by the General Assembly.

Opponents are challenging the legislature’s Issue 2 and Issue 3 in Pulaski County Circuit Court over the wording of ballot titles.

All three citizen-initiated proposals – Issues 4, 5 and 6 – are in court too. The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ruled that Issue 4 and Issue 5 did not qualify for the ballot because of problems with certifying canvasser background checks, but a lawsuit filed in federal court may have revived the two issues. Issue 6 faces the same canvasser background check certification issue, but the Arkansas Supreme Court has not ruled yet on whether the referendum qualifies for the general election ballot.

Understanding the issues

Arkansans see the popular name and ballot title of each proposed constitutional amendment when casting their votes. Every amendment actually includes more information that is not included on the ballot. Voters can find the full proposals and learn more about what they would do in the voter guide.

The voter guide includes:

How the proposals will appear on the ballot

What a “FOR” or “AGAINST” vote means

Questions and answers about what proposals would do

Supporter and opponent viewpoints

The voter guide is reviewed by University of Arkansas law school professors as well as issue supporters and opponents before publication.

A limited number of printed voter guide will be available at every county Cooperative Extension Service office by the first week of October.

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