Proposal Could Be Removed from the Arkansas Fall Ballot Due to Background Check Technicality

By Michael Klazema on 9/6/2016

Background checks may stop a political proposal from going forward in Arkansas. The proposal pertains to medical lawsuits and would put a cap the fees that attorneys can charge and the damages that can be rewarded in such cases. It is a tort reform measure that made it to the Arkansas November ballot by way of a petition that received nearly 93,000 signatures. If approved by voters, the measure would effectively amend the Arkansas state constitution.

According to a report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin already approved the 93,000 signatures and sent the medical tort reform proposal to the ballot. However, there are several groups trying to keep the public from voting on the proposal. One of those groups, the "Committee to Protect AR Families”, recently filed a lawsuit against Secretary Martin's office alleging that petitioners got the measure on the ballot illegally.

Arkansas law requires that all door-to-door solicitors and canvassers pass a background check through the Arkansas State Police. Since canvassers without background checks collected some of the signatures for proposal petition, the lawsuit argues that those signatures are not valid.

Missing background checks for canvassers wasn’t the only problem with the medical tort reform proposal according to the lawsuit filed by the Committee to Protect AR Families. The lawsuit also argues that some of the signatures on the petition are missing key information about the signees. For instance, some of the signatures are not accompanied by street addresses.

Ultimately, the Committee to Protect AR Families lawsuit says that as many as 35,000 of the petition's 95,000 signatures may not be valid under state law. Without those 35,000 signatures, the measure would not legally be allowed on the Arkansas ballot this November. For the 2016 election, petitions to get on the state ballot required a minimum of 85,859 signatures.

The measure—known around Arkansas as "Issue 4"—was sponsored by Health Care Access for Arkansas. This public interest group made up of doctors, pharmacists, and other people in the healthcare industry spearheaded the petition process for the measure. One of the roles the group played in the petition was hiring and paying the canvassers who collected the 93,000 signatures. The group says that it went through all of the necessary steps to vet and certify the canvassers before collecting signatures.


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