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AR Attorney General Tim Griffin explains process for approving ballot titles

Ballot themes on ballots this November include marijuana, elections, education, guns, tobacco, minimum wage and the death penalty.
Meg Kelly
/
NPR
During the 2023 legislative session, Arkansas lawmakers approval of Act 194 now allows the state's attorney general to handle the ballot title approval process.

Earlier this year, Arkansas lawmakers passed Act 194, which returned the approval of ballot titles to the attorney general’s office, which is managed by Attorney General Tim Griffin, a Republican. In an interview with Arkansas PBS, Griffin explained how the office keeps a neutral stance when deciding which ballot titles to approve.

“The process in my office is one where I don’t even see the acceptance or rejection of the opinion. I don’t even see that. It’s completely done and offered to me for final approval,” Griffin said.

Griffin said he has changed zero opinions that his staff published about the ballot titles. According to the AG’s website, when a ballot title is reviewed, attorneys check the ballot title to determine whether or not the ballot title would give voters a fair summary of the proposal.

Griffin said one of the biggest issues his office is seeing with proposed ballot initiatives is the wording. He said because his office is tasked with determining whether or not the proposed ballot gives a clear description to voters, the wording of the ballot titles have to be clear.

“Lawyers are taught that if something is vague it is subject to no reasonable interpretation. Something that is ambiguous is subject to two or more reasonable interpretations. We get some of these proposals that are vague or ambiguous and we are not quite sure what they mean and the public is not going to be sure,” he said.

In an interview last week with KARK Channel 4’s Capitol View, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, a Republican, said it makes sense for the AG’s office to approve ballot titles. He said the AG’s team of lawyers makes it easier to evaluate ballot titles.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.