Nate Steel pushed a dolly holding five boxes of petitions up the ramp outside the Victory Building in Little Rock on Friday, capping off a month-long scramble to collect the voter signatures needed to put casinos on the November ballot.
"We feel really good about it," Steel told reporters and photographers covering the first group Friday to submit signatures by the Secretary of State's Office July 6 deadline.
A U-Haul trailer carried 46 boxes, which according to Steel represented 96,170 signatures from across the state. That's more than the required 84,859 signatures for the ballot, but many of the signatures can be flawed: people who aren't registered, signatures that can't be deciphered, or on petitions without notary seals.
Josh Bridges, elections coordinator for the Arkansas Secretary of State, said temporary workers will spend the next month reviewing petitions, looking at the signatures and comparing them to their lists of registered voters. They'll have at least 60 employees, some working over night, verifying signatures ahead of the Aug. 23 deadline for the Secretary of State to send the final November ballot lineup to county clerks across the state.
The campaigns will be notified if they turned in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Many groups spend this time collecting more signatures to make up for any invalid ones.
Nate Steel delivers the final load of petitions in a campaign to legalize four casinos in the state.
Casino supporters, Driving Arkansas Forward and the Arkansas Jobs Coalition, had a late start in collecting signatures. It was only at the end of May that the Attorney General approved ballot titles, a requirement before groups can collect signatures.
A competing casino measure that sought to legalize casinos in Benton, Boone, Miller and Pulaski Counties did not turn in any signatures Friday. That removes the possibility of two casino issues on the ballot.
Before the end of the afternoon, supporters submitted signatures for increasing Arkansas' minimum wage and reducing the number of years state legislators can serve in office.
"We're cutting it close, but we verify everything," said David Couch, the organizer behind Arkansans for a Fair Wage.
He wheeled in 15 boxes of signatures for the initiated act, a proposed state law that needs signatures from 67,887 voters to get a spot on the ballot. Couch had 69,413 signatures.
Canvassers were collecting signatures up until noon, he said.
"I needed every one of them" Couch said.
Secretary of State Office staff unload petitions from the Arkansas Term Limits Amendment group.
Supporters of changing Arkansas' term limits delivered their boxes of signatures about an hour before the Secretary of State's Office was slated to close. The group started their efforts in October 2016 for a spot at the 2018 ballot. The Arkansas Term Limits Amendment group turned in 135,590 signatures Friday.
At the moment, none of the groups have organized opposition though Couch and Steel said they expect someone to file a legal challenge in court to try and knock them off the ballot.
Read the ballot titles tied to the signatures submitted today
What else will be on the ballot?
The state legislature has referred two constitutional amendments to voters in November. They will be on the ballot unless they are successfully challenged in court before the election. Early voting starts Oct. 22. The two issues are:
- Issue 1 - An Amendment Concerning Civil Lawsuits and the Powers of the General Assembly and Supreme Court to Adopt Court Rules
- Issue 2 - A Constitutional Amendment Adding as a Qualification to Vote that a Voter Present Certain Valid Photographic Identification When Casting a Ballot In Person or Casting an Absentee Ballot