The Arkansas Supreme Court this morning heard oral arguments on the challenge to the certification of the proposed constitutional amendment to allow retail alcohol sales in all 75 counties.

The legal challenge was led by Elizabeth Robben Murray of the Friday Law Firm, lobbing a procedural nitpicking claim about the timing of the certification. The plaintiffs are Mary Dillard, a political consultant working with the association of Conway County liquor dealers that have enjoyed a profitable regional alcohol monopoly on account of business from neighboring dry areas and Brian Richardson, chair of the ad hoc Citizens for Local Rights committee. Petitions have to be filed four months before the election, or by July 4. The secretary of state’s office was closed that holiday — and following custom as well as law pertaining to other election issues — the office extended the deadline to the next business day, July 7. Plaintiffs argue that was constitutionally impermissible. Secretary of State Mark Martin is the named defendant.


Murray today argued, stealing a line from the Secretary of State’s own brief, that Amendment 7 of the Arkansas Constitution “says what it says and it speaks for itself.” 

The Secretary of State’s counsel, as well as David Couch, intervening on behalf of the Let Arkansas Decide group which led the ballot initiative effort, argued that the plaintiffs failed to account for Amendment 51, Amendment 5, and the constitution as a whole; argued that requiring state offices, city clerks, and county clerks open on holidays and potentially Sundays would be a logistical disaster; noted that Arkansas Secretaries of State have done this very thing in the past; and stated that those seeking to put this question on the ballot had relied on the Secretary of State’s determination to roll the deadline to the 7th (thus, the Court can’t step in and suddenly change course now).  


The two sides also sparred over whether the ballot title fails to make the full scope of the amendment clear. 

I’m not a lawyer or an experienced Court watcher, but it sounded to me from the judges’ questions like they were more sympathetic to the defendants and the alcohol sales amendment will remain on the ballot next month. We’ll see. 


Note that the minimum wage ballot initiative was also turned in on the 7th. 

Here’s the lawsuit and more background from Max