Arkansas Voters Reject Attack on Citizen Initiative Process

An overwhelming majority of Arkansas voters rejected Issue 2 on the ballot Tuesday. The measure would have raised the minimum threshold to pass future state ballot initiatives to 60% of the vote, and no doubt would have deterred many future reform efforts in the state.

"We are extremely happy that Arkansans overwhelmingly defeated Issue 2 & kept power where it belongs - in the hands of voters,” said Bonnie Miller, chair of Protect AR Constitution.

“We sent a clear message to politicians & lobbyists trying to steal our constitutional rights: STOP."

Issue 2 was a legislative-referred measure, which means a majority of state lawmakers voted to put it on the ballot. A “yes” vote on the measure would have affected not just changes to the state constitution but any citizen ballot initiative – an unprecedented restriction on voters’ rights.

Twenty-six states allow citizen-led ballot initiatives, but none of them require more than a simple majority for state statutes or veto referendums. Florida, Utah, and Washington, however, have a supermajority requirement for specific constitutional changes. 

The attack on the citizen initiative process is not isolated to a single state. RepresentUs released a report that found that since 2017, 64 bills have been proposed in state legislatures across the country to make it harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot and pass them.

None of these efforts succeeded, but that doesn’t mean lawmakers will stop trying. Elected officials have increased these efforts as citizens use their power to reform an electoral and political process rigged against them.

Notably, raising the vote threshold by ten percentage points would have a devastating impact on many citizen-led campaigns. The amount of money, resources, and people needed on the ground to reach enough voters to attempt 60% would rise exponentially.

Make no mistake: That is the point. Raising the bar on citizen initiatives is meant to be a deterrent to stop future campaigns before they can get off the ground.

South Dakota voters soundly defeated a constitutional amendment similar to Issue 2 in June.