Amid a flurry of activity yesterday afternoon, election officials in Arkansas will allow a proposed constitutional amendment referendum on allowing poker rooms in the state to appear on the November ballot.
According to Arkansas News Bureau writer James Jefferson, Secretary of State Mark Martin certified the ballot initiative of poker player and political consultant Nancy Todd to be included on the November slate with four other proposals that had been in limbo. The Todd proposal – to open four poker rooms in counties across the state – was held up by the Secretary of State, forcing a move by Todd that played out yesterday afternoon.
As reported yesterday here at Poker News Daily, Todd followed through with a petition to the Arkansas Supreme Court to put the measure on the November ballot over the protests of the Secretary of State. That motion, obtained by Poker News Daily, detailed out how state officials had at varying points accepted her ballot initiative, but was potentially swayed by outside influences.
The “Petition for Review or Writ of Mandamus” (basically an order from the Supreme Court for officials to perform their duties correctly) states that Todd’s original proposal to amend the Arkansas constitution was originally accepted by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. After Todd had originally obtained the necessary petition signatures in July to put the measure on the November ballot (getting over 80,000 signatures when 73,000 were all that was needed), Chuck Lange, the executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association, challenged the petition claiming that the ballot title wasn’t “fair and complete” and that the measure would violate federal and state laws.
After review by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, the decision to accept Lange’s challenge was upheld, even though Attorney General McDaniel wrote in his opinion to the Secretary of State that he wasn’t sure how “receptive the Arkansas Supreme Court would be to this argument.”
Undaunted, Todd changed some of the language in the title of the bill in an attempt to appease the different factions to no avail. Todd also continued to collect petition signatures after the Arkansas Board of Elections deemed that only slightly more than 23,000 of the 80,000 signatures were verifiable. This week, after a one month grace period was given to meet the petition requirements, Todd filed another 120,000 signatures in favor of the measure.
Still, Arkansas officials weren’t going to put the measure on the November ballot. “The Secretary of State apparently intends not to fulfill his mandatory legal duty to certify the ballot title to the county election commissions today (Thursday) as required by (Arkansas code),” Todd’s petition to the Supreme Court stated. In closing the petition, Todd requested that the Supreme Court use the Writ of Mandamus to order state officials to perform their duties.
Just after Todd filed her papers with the Arkansas Supreme Court, Arkansas government officials relented in their objections. Secretary of State Martin certified Todd’s ballot initiative – along with four others – that still may be litigated even as voters head to the polls come November. Laws in the state of Arkansas designate that certified ballot proposals involved in court action are allowed to be on the ballot. If, in the future, those court actions disqualify a measure, votes regarding the issue won’t be counted.
Along with Todd’s ballot initiative, another casino proposal from a Texas businessman will also appear on the November slate, but there are questions on that proposal due to not getting enough petition signatures. The three other proposals cover a state sales tax increase, allowing local governments to create redevelopment districts and issue bonds and allowing for the usage of medical marijuana.
The fight over poker in Arkansas may just be getting started. There is still the process of verifying the signatures, which could push into September. The legal system will have its say in the near future, of course, but now comes the arduous task of convincing the citizens of the Natural State to vote affirmatively to bring poker rooms to the state when Election Day comes this November.