POCAHONTAS, AR – The Randolph County Clerk reported in her decision today that the final signature count is deficient by 361 signatures, in spite of more than 4,000 registered voter signatures being submitted in support of allowing local residents to vote on whether to allow alcohol sales in the county.
The measure needed 3,813 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Keep Revenue in Randolph County and Randolph County citizens Erik Williams and Michelle Counts, whose signatures were among those rejected, have filed a lawsuit in circuit court challenging the Randolph County Clerk’s rejection of valid signatures that the campaign believes were wrongly discarded.
“More than 250 Randolph County voters had their valid signatures tossed simply because they appeared on a petition page with an out-of-county voter,” said Linda Bowlin, committee chair for Keep Revenue in Randolph County. “The clerk rejected the signatures based on a law we believe, and a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling indicates, is unconstitutional.”
An Arkansas statute on local option elections says if a petition includes signatures from petitioners of more than one county, the entire petition is rejected. However, in 2015 in McDaniel v. Spencer, 1 the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional an almost identical Arkansas law on statewide petitions.
In that case, the Court found “…in situations involving the validity of 2 individual signatures, where there is no evidence of improper motives on the part of the canvasser(s), only those individual signatures are called into question, not the entire petition part.”
Bowlin says striking those signatures disenfranchises validly registered Randolph County voters who signed the petition in good faith, believing they would be counted.
“When I signed the petition to put this measure on the ballot, I expected my voice to be heard,” said Randolph County voter Michelle Counts. “It’s disappointing, and frankly frustrating, to learn that’s not the case – that my valid signature was simply tossed aside. I definitely feel like my voice on this important issue has been taken away.”
Other signatures were newly rejected by the clerk on grounds previously not disclosed to the committee and these new rejections, as well as others, will also be challenged in the court action.
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