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Stephens v. Martin

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 27, 2014

JACKSON THOMAS STEPHENS, JR., PETITIONER
v.
MARK MARTIN, SECRETARY OF STATE, RESPONDENT STEPHEN COPLEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF GIVE ARKANSAS A RAISE NOW, INTERVENOR

AN ORIGINAL ACTION

Cox, Sterling & McClure, PLLC, by: David W. Sterling; Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson; and Gober Hilgers, PLLC, by: Michael Hilgers, for petitioner.

AJ Kelly, Deputy Secretary of State, Arkansas Secretary of State, Martha Adcock, General Counsel, and L. Justin Tate, Associate General Counsel, for respondent.

David A. Couch, PLLC, by: David A. Couch; McMath Woods P.A., by: Will Bond; Alexandra Rouse; and Justin Craig, for intervenor Stephen Copley, Individually, and on Behalf of Give Arkansas A Raise Now.

Dustin McDaniel, Attorney General, amicus curiae in support of respondent.

PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice

Petitioner Jackson Thomas Stephens Jr. brings this original action pursuant to Arkansas Constitution article 5, section 1, and amendment 80, section 2(D)(4), challenging the sufficiency of a statewide initiative petition. He asks this court to enjoin respondent Mark Martin, Secretary of State ("Secretary of State"), from placing the initiated act known as "An Act to Increase the Arkansas Minimum Wage, " or Issue No. 5, on the November 4, 2014 general-election ballot or, alternatively, from certifying any ballots cast for it. The proposed act is sponsored by intervenor Stephen Copley, individually and on behalf of Give Arkansas A Raise Now ("GARN"). On September 25, we ordered expedited proceedings and appointed the Honorable John B. Robbins as master. See Stephens v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 402 (per curiam). The "Master's Report and Findings of Fact" has now been filed with this court, and the parties have filed their briefs in the matter. We deny the petition.

On January 3, 2014, the Arkansas Attorney General "certified as submitted" the popular name of the proposed initiated measure, which is set forth above, and the following ballot title that were submitted by Copley, as chairman of GARN:

AN ACT TO AMEND THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING THE STATE MINIMUM WAGE; THE ACT WOULD RAISE THE CURRENT STATE MINIMUM WAGE FROM SIX DOLLARS AND TWENTY-FIVE CENTS ($6.25) PER HOUR TO SEVEN DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS ($7.50) PER HOUR ON JANUARY 1, 2015, TO EIGHT DOLLARS ($8.00) PER HOUR ON JANUARY 1, 2016, AND TO EIGHT DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS ($8.50) PER HOUR ON JANUARY 1, 2017.[1]

Op. Ark. Att'y Gen. No. 156 (2013). A petition part was filed on February 20, 2014, with the Secretary of State's office in accord with Arkansas Code Annotated § 7-9-104(d)(2) (Supp. 2013), [2] and on Monday, July 7, 2014, GARN submitted its initiative petition with signatures to the Secretary of State. After numbering the petition parts, the Secretary of State "initially reviewed each petition part to determine three things: if each was an original, not a photocopy; if there was a legible copy of the entire text of the measure attached; and if the popular name and ballot title were attached." As a result of this review, the Secretary of State culled, or set aside, 1, 243 petition parts containing 7, 983 signatures, because those parts did not have a legible copy of the entire text of the measure; those 7, 983 signatures were not included in the Secretary of State's initial count of the signatures that were submitted July 7 by GARN.

The Secretary of State then reviewed the petition parts for other items, including the following: "Canvasser signature; Canvasser signature matches printed canvasser name; Canvasser verification date is on the day of or after the date(s) petitioners signed; Canvasser and notary are not the same person; Single notary, with notary signature and notary seal; Notary is currently registered in Arkansas; [and] Potentially fictitious or forged signatures."[3]A total of 754 petition parts were culled for not meeting these criteria; nonetheless, the 5, 580 signatures on those parts were included in the initial count of the July 7 signatures.

Ultimately, the initial count conducted by the Secretary of State of the July 7 signatures resulted in a total of 64, 133 signatures, with at least a total of 62, 507 signatures, along with article 5, section 1's fifteen-county signature requirement, needed to place an initiated act on the 2014 general-election ballot. GARN was then notified by the Secretary of State on July 16, 2014, that the initial-count requirement had been met, and the petition parts were submitted for signature review and verification. During that review, more than 3, 000 signatures were disqualified, and the Secretary of State notified GARN on July 18 that the petition did not meet the signature requirements established in article 5, section 1. He then gave GARN an additional thirty days to "solicit and obtain additional signatures; submit proof to show that the rejected signatures or some of them are good and should be counted; or make the petition more definite and certain." In addition, GARN was advised that it had thirty days to meet the burden set forth in Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-111(b) (Supp. 2013) for signatures rejected due to concerns that the signatures were fictitious or forged.[4]

GARN subsequently submitted additional petition parts to the Secretary of State on August 18, and that office conducted the same reviews as on the July 7 petition parts. Ninety-seven parts containing 635 signatures were culled for failing to have a legible copy of the text of the measure, and those 635 signatures were not included in the count of the signatures submitted on August 18. An additional 712 petition parts containing 5, 049 signatures were culled after examination of the following: canvasser's signature; the matching of the canvasser's signature to the canvasser name printed; the canvasser verification date being that on the day of or after the date a petitioner signed; the canvasser and notary not being the same person; a single notary, with notary signature and notary seal; the notary being currently registered in Arkansas; and potentially fictitious or forged signatures.

On August 21, 2014, the Secretary of State certified GARN's proposed initiated act to the county boards of election commissioners and advised the county boards that the proposed initiated act would be Issue No. 5 on the November 4 general-election ballot. The Secretary of State subsequently notified GARN on September 3 that its petition met the signature requirements of article 5, section 1. At that time, the Secretary of State had determined that the petition contained "no fewer than 70, 074 valid signatures, " which was in excess of the required 62, 507. GARN was also advised that the total number of valid signatures may increase because additional petition parts had not yet been reviewed for the sufficiency of signatures and that the verification ...


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