Secretary of State rejects three ballot proposals over background check debate

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston rejected three potential ballot issues on Tuesday (July14) claiming that supporters of the measures did not “pass” background checks for petition gatherers.

All three groups contend that Thurston is in error.

The three issues include Arkansas Voters First – which supports a new system for redrawing Congressional and legislative districts and another proposal for open primaries and rank voting – and Arkansas Wins – which is seeking to expand casinos in the state by adding 16 new gaming licenses.

In letters to all three groups, Thurston argued that the groups’ paid canvassers did not meet a requirement of having “passed” criminal background checks. When supporters turned in petitions, they informed Thurston they had “acquired” background checks. Background checks are required of petition gatherers under Arkansas state law.

“It has been determined that acquiring a criminal background check is not the same as passing a criminal background check,” Thurston wrote.

“[N]one of the signatures solicited by the paid canvassers may be counted for any purpose,” he said in rejecting the petitions.

David Couch, attorney for Arkansas Voters First, tells Talk Business & Politics that Thurston’s office has incorrectly rejected the petitions.

“Every one of our canvassers passed a criminal background check prior to collecting signatures,” Couch said. “We certified when we submitted the canvasser list that we were in compliance with the applicable statute which includes the provision that each canvasser passed a background check. I have background checks on every single one.” FULL ARTICLE