Strengthening Our Communities: The Citizen Initiative Process In Arkansas

Oct 18, 2019

Arkansas is 1 of 15 states where citizens have the right to propose new state laws and constitutional amendments for voters to decide statewide.

Article 5 of the 1874 Arkansas Constitution grants this power to the people, but it wasn’t until the progressive teen years of the 1900s that citizens used their authority to propose a handful of amendments involving the legislative session and bond issues.

In the years since then, citizens have used the initiative process to enact laws such as:

  • Establish workers compensation policies
  • Create funding mechanisms for public libraries and community colleges
  • Set up the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  • Legalize horse racing
  • Eliminate the poll tax
  • Enact legislative term limits
  • and more recently legalize medical marijuana and casino gaming

The citizen initiative process can be long and laborious depending on a group’s funding. Many proposals never make it to the ballot.

To be successful in putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, a ballot issue group needs to collect at least 85,000 valid signatures from voters in at least 15 counties. The criteria for other initiative are slightly different.

Many issues never make it to the ballot or are struck down before Election Day. In 2018, Arkansas voters approved the 100th amendment to their state constitution.

November 2020 will be the next time voters have a say on further amendments.

You can learn more about the ballot initiative process and other important information about civic engagement at uaex.edu/ballot.