RANDY ZOOK, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ARKANSANS FOR A STRONG ECONOMY, A BALLOT QUESTION COMMITTEE PETITIONER
MARK MARTIN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS RESPONDENT KRISTIN FOSTER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ARKANSANS FOR A FAIR WAGE INTERVENOR
Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP, by: Elizabeth Robben
Murray, Ellen Owens Smith, Joshua C. Ashley, and Allison C.
Pearson, for petitioner.
Kelly, Deputy Secretary of State and General Counsel; and
Michael Fincher, Associate General Counsel, for respondent.
A. Couch, PLLC, by: David A. Couch; and CapRock Law Firm,
PLLC, by: Preston T. Eldridge, for intervenor.
R. BAKER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Zook, petitioner, challenges the sufficiency of a
statewide-initiative petition. Respondent, the Honorable Mark
Martin, Arkansas Secretary of State, certified the initiative
entitled "An Act to Increase the Arkansas Minimum Wage
Act," also known as "Issue No. 5," which is on
the November 6, 2018 ballot. The proposed Act is sponsored by
intervenor, Kristin Foster, Individually and on behalf of
Arkansans for A Fair Wage ("sponsor-intervenor").
Because we do not find merit in Zook's claims, we deny
5, § 1 of the Arkansas Constitution governs both
statewide and local initiatives and referendums. Jurisdiction
to review the sufficiency of statewide initiative petitions
is conferred upon this court by way of Amendment 7 to the
Arkansas Constitution. See Ward v. Priest, 350 Ark.
345, 86 S.W.3d 884 (2002). Amendment 7 states that
"[t]he sufficiency of all state-wide petitions shall be
decided in the first instance by the Secretary of State,
subject to review by the Supreme Court of the State, which
shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all such
causes." Ark. Const. art. 5, § 1, amended
by Ark. Const. amend. 7. Following certification by the
Secretary of State, Amendment 7 clearly confers original and
exclusive jurisdiction upon this court to review the
Secretary of State's decision as to the sufficiency of
the petition. See Ward, 350 Ark. 345, 86 S.W.3d 884;
see also Stephens v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 442, at 6,
491 S.W.3d 451, 454.
relevant history of this matter is as follows. On July 6,
2018, the sponsor-intervenor initially submitted 69, 413
signatures to Martin. Martin performed an initial prima facie
review and validated 68, 861 signatures. On July 30, 2018,
Martin notified the sponsor-intervenor that 52, 124
signatures submitted were valid, and pursuant to article 5
section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, if a petition
contains 75 percent of the necessary valid signatures to be
certified on the ballot, the petition qualifies for a
thirty-day cure period. Martin informed the sponsor-intervenor
that she had earned the thirty-day cure period to submit
additional signatures. On August 3, 2018, the
sponsor-intervenor submitted her cure signatures for a total
of 113, 160 signatures, and 85, 526 were valid signatures. On
August 16, 2018, Martin certified the petition as sufficient
for inclusion on the 2018 general-election ballot.
September 4, 2018, Zook filed his petition with this court.
In challenging the sufficiency of the initiative petition,
Zook contends that the sponsor-intervenor did not submit an
adequate number of signatures and the petition should not
have not qualified for the cure. Zook contends that Martin
improperly counted invalid petitions and signatures that
qualified the sponsor-intervenor's petition for a cure
and ultimately certified Issue No. 5 for the November 6, 2018
general election ballot. Accordingly, Zook contends that
because the petitions submitted to Martin failed to contain
the 75 percent of the number of valid signatures needed in
the initial filing and she was not entitled to the cure
period and, therefore, signatures obtained after July 6, 2018
should not have been counted.
September 6, 2018, we appointed the Honorable Sam Bird as
special master in this matter. The special master held a
hearing on September 17-19, 2018, at which he heard
testimony, heard the arguments of counsel, and received
September 24, 2018, the special master entered his findings
that the sponsor-intervenor's petition had sufficient
signatures to qualify for a cure period and exceeded the
minimum number of signatures (67, 887) required to qualify
for placement on the November 6, 2018 ballot. The parties
have now filed their respective briefs in this matter. We
deny the petition.
Standard of Review
our standard of review, we will accept the special
master's findings of fact unless they are clearly
erroneous. See Roberts v. Priest, 334 Ark. 503, 975
S.W.2d 850 (1998). A finding of fact is clearly erroneous,
even if there is evidence to support it, when, based on the
entire evidence, the court is left with the definite and firm
conviction that the master has made a mistake. Id.
review of this challenge, we are tasked with interpreting
article 5, section 1-- including amendment 93 of 2014-which
amended article 5, section 1. "In interpreting the
constitution on appeal, our task is to read the law as it is
written and interpret it in accordance with established
principles of constitutional construction. First
Nat'l Bank of DeWitt v. Cruthis, 360 Ark. 528, 203
S.W.3d 88 (2005). It is this court's responsibility to
decide what a constitutional provision means, and we will
review a lower court's construction de novo. Id.
Language of a constitutional provision that is plain and
unambiguous must be given its obvious and ...