The anti-democratic agenda of Republican state legislators includes not only vote suppression laws but also laws aimed at preventing popular ballot measures (think minimum wage and medical marijuana to name a couple in Arkansas.)


The ruling in a South Dakota federal lawsuit (in the same federal judicial circuit with Arkansas) is of interest because a lawsuit has already been filed in Arkansas challenging newly legislated limits on petition gathering. From the South Dakota news:

A federal judge has blocked the state from enforcing a law that requires paid ballot circulators to register with the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office.

Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled that the law, passed by the Legislature in 2020, interferes with constitutionally protected political speech.

“Courts have held that restrictions on petition circulation may cause injury to proponents of initiatives by limiting the pool of circulators who carry their message, reducing the size of their audience, making it less likely to gather the number of signatures necessary to place the issue on the ballot, and requiring organizations to allocate resources elsewhere,” Piersol wrote in granting an injunction on the state from enforcing the law.

The suit was brought by a group trying to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot. They wanted to use paid canvassers. The law requires registration and personal information, which the lawsuit said could lead to harassment of circulators.


Arkansas’s anti-petition law goes even farther. It requires a criminal background check, state residency, registration and prohibits pay based on signatures gathered. It is effectively a bill to ban paid petition gathering, the only effective way to gather mass numbers of signatures.