BRIAN RICHARDSON AND MARY DILLARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF CITIZENS FOR LOCAL RIGHTS, PETITIONERS
MARK MARTIN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE, RESPONDENT LINDA BOWLIN AND J. ROSS JONES, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF LET ARKANSAS DECIDE, INTERVENORS
Law Offices of Shirley Jones, by: Shirley Jones; Stephen Engstrom Law Office, by: Stephen Engstrom; and Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP, by: Elizabeth Robben Murray, Robert S. Shafer, and John F. Griffee IV, for petitioners.
Martha Adcock, General Counsel, Arkansas Secretary of State, and L. Justin Tate, Associate General Counsel, for respondent.
David A. Couch, PLLC, by: David A. Couch, for intevenors.
KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice. CORBIN and DANIELSON, JJ., concur.
KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice
On September 5, 2014, Petitioners, Brian Richardson and Mary Dillard, acting individually and on behalf of the ballot-question committee Citizens for Local Rights (" Richardson" ) filed this original action challenging the timeliness and sufficiency of an initiative petition for a proposed constitutional amendment with the popular name of " The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment" also known as " Issue No. 4" certified by the Respondent, Mark Martin, in his official capacity as Arkansas Secretary of State, for the November 4, 2014 general-election ballot. The intervenors, Linda Bowlin and J. Ross Jones, individually and on behalf of Let Arkansas Decide (" Bowlin" ) are the members of a ballot-question committee and the sponsor of the proposed constitutional amendment.
The procedural history of this matter is as follows. On July 7, 2014, pursuant to Amendment 7 of the Arkansas Constitution, Bowlin submitted an initiative petition with Martin to place the measure on the November 4, 2014 general-election ballot. On July 18, 2014, Martin notified Bowlin that the petition did not meet the signature requirement of article 5, § 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, and pursuant to art. 5, § 1, Bowlin was given an additional thirty days for correction or amendment. On August 15, 2014, Bowlin filed additional petitions with signatures and on August 21, 2014, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 7-5-204 (Repl. 2011), Martin certified the amendment as Issue No. 4 to the County Boards of Elections Commissioners. On August 29, 2014, Martin declared that the petition had met the art. 5, § 1 signature requirements to be placed on the November 4, 2014 general-election ballot.
On September 5, 2014, Richardson filed this original action and motions for expedited scheduling order, consecutive briefing, and oral argument. On September 8, 2014, Bowlin filed her motion to intervene. On September 9, 2014, Martin filed his response to the original-action complaint and responses to the motions for expedited scheduling order, expedited briefing, and oral argument. On September 10, 2014, we granted Bowlin's motion to intervene and also granted Richardson's motion for expedited scheduling order, consecutive briefing, and oral argument. Finally, on September 25, 2014, Martin filed a motion to strike the affidavit of J. Kevin Watkins filed by Richardson. On October 2, 2014, we granted Martin's motion to strike the affidavit, and on October 8, 2014, we denied Richardson's motion for reconsideration striking the affidavit. The parties timely filed simultaneous briefs and replies, and the matter is properly now before this court.
This court has original jurisdiction of this case pursuant to Ark. S.Ct. R. 6-5(a) (2014). Rule 6-5(a) provides that this court has original jurisdiction in " extraordinary actions required by law, such as suits attacking the validity of statewide petitions filed under Amendment 7 of the Arkansas Constitution." Amendment 7 to the Constitution is codified in article 5, § 1, of the Arkansas Constitution and is
referred to as Amendment 7. Ark. Const. art. 5, § 1, amended by amend. 7.
Richardson presents two issues for review: (1) the timeliness of the petition and (2) the legal sufficiency of the ballot title of " The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment."
I. Timeliness of the Petition
The first issue before the court is whether the petition was timely filed. It is undisputed that the petition was filed on July 7, 2014. Richardson asserts that the petition did not meet the timeliness requirements of Amendment 7 because it was not filed within four months of the election, more specifically by July 4, 2014, and therefore the petition was untimely.
We review questions of constitutional construction de novo. See Wilson v. Weiss, 370 Ark. 205, 258 S.W.3d 351 (2007). When interpreting the constitution, our task is to read the laws as they are written and interpret them in accordance with established principles of constitutional construction. Brewer v. Fergus, 348 Ark. 577, 79 S.W.3d 831 (2002). Language of a constitutional provision that is plain and unambiguous must be given its obvious and common meaning. Proctor v. Daniels, 2010 Ark. 206, 392 S.W.3d 360. Neither rules of construction nor rules of interpretation may be used to defeat the clear and certain meaning of a constitutional provision. Id. Further, the Arkansas Constitution must be considered as a whole, and every provision must be read in light of other provisions relating to the same subject matter. Forrester v. Daniels, 2010 Ark. 397, 373 S.W.3d 871. Finally, Amendment 7 must be liberally construed in order to effectuate its purposes. Porter v. McCuen, 310 Ark. 674, 839 S.W.2d 521 (1992).
With these standards in mind, we turn to the applicable constitutional provisions. Amendment 7 ...