From AMS Executive Vice President David Wroten:
Late last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling that disqualifies Issue 6, the referendum on Act 579, from the ballot. While it may still appear on most printed ballots, the votes will not be counted.
This came about after a ruling in another case that disqualified two other initiative petitions focused on election reform from a sponsor called Arkansas Voters First. In that case, the Supreme Court determined that the language in required certifications for paid canvassers was insufficient. The same canvassing company, National Ballot Access, carried our petition. Accordingly, the Court determined that our certification language was also insufficient.
This ruling by the Court is extremely frustrating. In all the polling on this referendum, the public was clearly in agreement that medical school and residency training was important to them. An overwhelming majority of Arkansans still believe that and are being denied the opportunity to vote against Act 579 at the ballot box.
In a real sense, Issue 6 was collateral damage. Three weeks ago, the Court disqualified two very popular initiatives (one had gathered over 140,000 signatures) because the sponsor did not explicitly certify that the paid canvassers had passed the required criminal background checks. The fact is the certification requirement, passed by the legislature, is impossible to meet. The statute requires you to obtain both state and federal criminal background checks from the Arkansas State Police. Well, guess what? The Arkansas State Police does not and will not provide “federal” criminal background checks. So, even if you obtain a federal check from other sources you still have not complied with the specific language of the statute. If you were to then “certify” that your canvassers had passed the criminal background checks, as required by law, you would be committing fraud, since you didn’t obtain the federal check from the Arkansas State Police. It is a classic catch 22, and nearly ensures that any measure challenged in court can be disqualified.
As the saying goes, there are no moral victories. This is a big loss. But one thing stands out that cannot be ignored and should not be ignored. By a large margin, voters in Arkansas recognize the importance of medical school education and residency training in providing the highest quality care.