RANDY ZOOK, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ARKANSANS FOR COMMON SENSE TERM LIMITS, A BALLOT QUESTION COMMITTEE PETITIONER
MARK MARTIN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS RESPONDENT ARKANSAS TERM LIMITS, A BALLOT QUESTION COMMITTEE 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.
Garrett LLC, by: Edward D. Greim, Alan T. Simpson, and
Garrett W. Hunkins; and Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC,
by: Chad W. Pekron and Brittany S. Ford, for intervenor.
A. WOMACK, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
Zook, petitioner, challenges the sufficiency of the
signatures certified by the respondent, the Honorable Mark
Martin, Arkansas Secretary of State, in the statewide
initiative ballot petition entitled "Arkansas Term
Limits Amendment," which is on the November 6, 2018
ballot. The intervenor, Arkansas Term Limits, sponsored the
petition. This court addresses the second issue raised in the
original action, the sufficiency of the collected signatures.
We conclude that the special master was correct in his
finding that there were insufficient signatures to keep the
amendment on the ballot; we therefore grant the petition.
6, 2018, the sponsor submitted 135, 590 signatures to the
secretary of state. On August 3, 2018, the secretary of state
certified that the sponsor had met the requirements under the
Arkansas Constitution to be placed on the ballot. The
secretary determined that there were no more than 93, 998
valid signatures and that 84, 859 signatures was the minimum
required to be placed on the ballot.
September 5, 2018, the petitioner filed an original action in
this court against the secretary of state, challenging the
sufficiency of the popular name and ballot title as well as
the sufficiency of the signatures collected. The petitioner
additionally moved to bifurcate the proceedings and to have a
special master appointed. On September 6, the intervenor
filed a motion to intervene in the action. On September 7, we
granted the motion to intervene, bifurcated the proceedings,
and appointed the Honorable Mark Hewitt as a special master
according to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-5(c) (2017) to
address the sufficiency of the collected signatures.
special master held hearings on September 16, 17, and 20th,
and entered his written findings on September 24th; he
concluded that the intervenor had failed to provide
sufficient signatures for the ballot. That same date, the
intervenor filed a letter notifying the special master that
he had double-counted multiple petition parts that had been
excluded for multiple reasons. On September 25th, the special
master filed his amended findings of fact and ultimately
concluded that the respondent had erroneously included 14,
806 signatures in the valid and final count. He therefore
determined that there were insufficient signatures for the
proposed amendment to remain on the ballot.
Standard of Review
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. Regarding
the special master's findings, our standard of review is
that we will accept the master's findings of fact unless
they are clearly erroneous. Benca v. Martin, 2016
Ark. 359, at 3, 500 S.W.3d 742, 744; Ark. R. Civ. P. 53(e)
(2017). 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. Roberts v.
Priest, 334 Ark. 503, 511, 975 S.W.2d 850, 853 (1998).
We review issues of statutory interpretation de novo, as it
is for this court to decide the meaning of a statute.
State v. Ledwell, 2017 Ark. 252, at 4, 526 S.W.3d 1,
3. Additionally, when interpreting a statute, we construe the
statute just as it reads, giving the words their ordinary and
usually accepted meaning in common language. Benca,
2016 Ark. 359, at 3, 500 S.W.3d at 745. We construe statutes
so that, if possible, every word is given meaning and effect.
first review the special master's findings that 4, 371
signatures should be excluded because the canvassers attached
false affidavits to the relevant petition parts. The special
master noted that the relevant petition parts had the
following affidavits attached:
I did not have in mind at the time I executed my Affidavit,
but am now informed, that under Arkansas law, my
"current residence address" is the place I am
staying at the time I swear out my Affidavits, which may be a
distinct location from my permanent address.
affidavits referred to in the statement above are the sworn
signatures that the canvassers must provide on the individual
petition parts. See Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-108(b)
(Repl. 2018). The sworn signature section also has a space
for the canvasser to place his or her residence address on
the petition. The special master noted that the canvassers
had executed other documents, sworn statements, and signature
cards demonstrating that they understood the difference
between their domicile address and their current residence
address. He concluded that the later affidavits stating they
did not understand the law were false and that the failure to
list their true current residence address on the petition
renders those signatures invalid.
Arkansas, a canvasser is required to sign the petition parts
and state that "the canvasser's current residence
address appearing on the verification is correct, that all
signatures appearing on the petition part were made in the
presence of the affiant, and that to the best of the
affiant's knowledge and belief each signature is genuine
and each person signing is a registered voter." Ark.
Code Ann. § 7-9-108(b). The signatures in a petition
shall not be counted if "[t]he petition lacks the
signature, printed name, and residence address of the
canvasser." Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-126 (b)(2) (Repl.
Benca v. Martin, the petitioner challenged
signatures obtained by the sponsor where the canvasser (1)
listed a post office box as his residence address, (2) listed
a business as the residence address, or (3) failed to include
a residence address on the petition parts. 2016 Ark. 359, at
11, 500 S.W.3d 742, 749. We held that if a petition fails to
meet the requirements of section 7-9-126, the petition shall
not be counted. Benca, 2016 Ark. 359, at
12, 500 S.W.3d at 750; Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-126. We
specifically noted that the term "shall" is
mandatory and the clerical-error exception or substantial
compliance cannot be used as a substitute for fulfillment
with the statute. Benca, 2016 Ark. 359, at 12-13,
500 S.W.3d at 750.
the special master's findings are not clearly erroneous.
The special master used Larry Bradshaw as an example and
noted that the sponsor registered him with a Bentonville
address with the secretary of state. However, on the petition
parts he collected, Bradshaw signed an affidavit that his
current resident address is in Florida. He executed documents
that he understood Arkansas law. Bradshaw executed his
sworn-canvasser statement on June 8, 2018, and listed Florida
as his current residence. On that same date, the intervenor
registered Bradshaw with the secretary of state using a
Bentonville, Arkansas, current residence address. The two
residential addresses are in direct conflict. Further,
Bradshaw later executed a sworn affidavit that the affidavit
on the petition parts he collected was false as to his
current residence address. The special master's findings
were therefore not clearly erroneous, and he correctly
excluded 4, 371 signatures.
Failure to Obtain ...