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The Arkansas Supreme Court has granted a request to expedite a lawsuit filed by a group that is pushing for paper ballots and restrictions on absentee voting in Arkansas elections.

The lawsuit, filed early last week by Conrad Reynolds and the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative (an entity created by Reynolds), names Secretary of State John Thurston and the State Board of Election Commissioners as defendants. Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army colonel, unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. French Hill in the Republican primary in 2022. The plaintiffs are asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to certify the ballot titles and popular names of two proposed constitutional amendments so the group can begin gathering signatures in order to place the measures on the 2024 ballot.

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Reynolds has run into the same problem as various other groups pushing proposed ballot measures on issues such as abortion, education and government transparency: Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin. In recent weeks, Griffin has refused to certify a number of proposals, saying they lack clarity, are unconstitutional, or have other defects.

One of the proposed amendments would require elections in Arkansas to be conducted with a specific type of paper ballots; prohibit voting by any kind of networked voting machine; and limit when, how, and by whom ballots could be counted. The other would limit absentee ballots only to people who could prove that they would not be able to vote in person because they are in a hospital, prison, or long-term care facility in the county where they are registered to vote, among other changes.

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The case does not deal with the substance of the two proposed amendments, however. Rather, it challenges the attorney general’s constitutional authority to certify ballot measures in general and asserts that changes to the ballot measure process made by the state Legislature in 2023  are unconstitutional under Article 5, Section 1, of the Arkansas Constitution.

Plaintiffs in the case specifically asked the high court to expedite the briefing schedule so that they would not be delayed in gathering signatures, since they have to collect nearly 91,000 before July 5. They also asked the court for a temporary injunction, prohibiting the defendants from implementing the statutory changes being challenged by the lawsuit.

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The Supreme Court denied the motion for a temporary injunction, but it granted the motion to expedite and ordered Thurston and the board to file an answer to the lawsuit by Friday, Jan. 26. The plaintiffs were given until Friday, Feb. 2, to file their initial brief in the case, with the defendants’ response brief due the following Friday and the plaintiff’s reply brief (if any) due the Friday after that.