SAFE SURGERY ARKANSAS, a Ballot Question Committee and Sponsor, and Laurie Barber, M.D., Individually and on Behalf of Safe Surgery Arkansas, Petitioners
John THURSTON, in his Official Capacity as Secretary of State, Respondent State of Arkansas, Intervenor Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, a Ballot Question Committee; and Vicki Farmer, Individually and on Behalf of Arkansas for Healthy Eyes, Intervenors
ORIGINAL ACTION PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
Wright & Gray, PLLC, by: Alex Gray and Nate Steel, Little
Rock; Kelly Law Firm, PLC, Little Rock, by: A.J. Kelly; and
Ryan Owsley, Little Rock, for petitioners.
Rock LLP, Little Rock, by: Jess Askew III, Ashley Hudson,
Andrew King, and Frederick H. Davis; and Dale W. Brown,
Fayetteville, for intervenors Arkansans for Healthy Eyes and
Rutledge, Atty Gen., by: William C. Bird III, Senior Asst
Atty Gen., for intervenors.
Sullivan, Little Rock and Peyton Murphy, Arkansas Secretary
of States Office, for respondent.
A. Stokes, of counsel, American Optometric Association; and
Everett Law Firm, Fayetteville, by: John C. Everett, for
amicus curiae, American Optometric Association.
LINKER HART, Associate Justice
Petitioners Safe Surgery Arkansas and Laurie Barber (SSA)
filed in this court a petition for a writ of mandamus against
respondent John Thurston in his official capacity as Arkansas
Secretary of State (Secretary of State). Arkansans for
Healthy Eyes and Vicki Farmer (AHE) intervened. The mandamus
petition seeks to compel the Secretary of State to count
signatures SSA obtained in support of a ballot petition for a
referendum on Act 579 of 2019. The Secretary of State had
refused to count most of the signatures, opining that they
were obtained in violation of Act 376 of 2019. Act 376 added
additional requirements for getting a referendum on the
election ballot. SSA seeks to have the signatures counted
pursuant to the pre-Act 376 legal framework, advancing two
arguments in support: (1) Act 376s emergency clause was
defective, meaning the changes contained in Act 376 did not
go into effect until after SSA had already filed its ballot
petition, or (2) if Act 376s emergency clause was effective,
the substance of the act is nonetheless violative of both the
Arkansas and United States Constitutions.
jurisdiction is proper pursuant to Ark. S.Ct. R.
1-2(a)(3). Because we agree with SSAs argument
that Act 376s emergency clause was defective, we do not
reach SSAs arguments regarding Act 376s constitutionality.
We grant SSAs mandamus petition insofar as its seeks to have
its referendum-related filings, including the signature
pages, addressed pursuant to the pre-Act 376 framework.
Legal and Factual Background
5, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution protects the
peoples right to petition for a referendum on any act of the
general assembly. To get a referendum on the ballot for
statewide election, the referendums sponsor must, among
other things, obtain signatures from at least six percent of
eligible voters in the state. Ark. Const. art. 5, § 1. After
a proposed referendum is placed on the ballot, if a majority
of voters elect in favor of the referendum at the election,
the act in question is repealed. Id.
2019 legislative session, the Arkansas General Assembly
passed Act 376. Act 376 purported to change the process by
which the people of this State may pursue a ballot initiative
or referendum. Relevant here is the manner and order in which
a referendum petitions sponsor must obtain sworn statements
from its paid canvassers. Since before Act 376, paid
canvassers have been required to give a written statement to
the petitions sponsor, swearing they have never been
convicted of certain crimes that would disqualify them from
serving as a paid canvasser. See Ark. Code Ann. §
7-9-601(d)(3) (Repl. 2018). ...