LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In politics and parliaments, there are majorities and supermajorities. We usually declare winners based on who got the most votes, but other times political bodies will insist on having even more affirmation.
A resounding threshold needs to be reached to really declare the will of the voters.
The Issue 2 ballot question would apply that idea to future ballot questions and constitutional amendments in Arkansas.
A bill only needs a simple majority, just over 50% to be approved— and if passed Issue number 2 would change that and make the threshold a 60% supermajority.
Supporters have said that it's too easy to get items on the ballot and outside influence can play a big role in what gets decided.
"Our initiative and constitutional amendment process is really susceptible to big money out of state interests," said state Rep. David Ray (R - Maumelle), the leader of the charge by lawmakers to raise the threshold. "They really want to hijack our lenient ballot access laws."
Opponents hail from the populist right and the progressive left, including the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.
That group contends that the process is far from easy.
"You have to follow very specific rules and regulations that the legislature has created," said Bill Kopsky, director of the APPP. "You have to write the measure in a way that passes constitutional muster with the courts, and then after you do all of that, then you got to convince voters to vote for which is the hardest hurdle of all."
Arkansas is among 38 states that require a simple majority. Eleven other states actually require a supermajority if they have a ballot initiative process.
If the change were to pass, it would have a significant impact on elections.
In the 20 years between 2000-2020, there were 40 attempts to amend the constitution or initiate new laws through the petition process.
30 of those won approval with 10 voted down (including a similar effort in 2020).
Of the 30 that were approved, 18 of them received at least 60% of the vote.
In other words, 12 of the laws or amendments that are on the books today (including medical marijuana) wouldn't have counted under the new rules.
"Our state constitution is our bedrock foundational document," said Ray. "We shouldn't just amend it four or five, six times every two years and just sort of a willy nilly fashion. It should really only be amended when there's something closer to genuine consensus among the voters."
"To take that right away from citizens after 100 years is just the wrong direction for the state to move," explained Kopsky. "Our state motto is 'regnat populus,' where the people rule, but Issue 2 directly undermines that state motto."
The candidates for governor follow the party lines of Ray or Kopsky, with Democrat Chris Jones and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. having said that they oppose the measure.
Meanwhile, Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed support and echoed Ray's statement that the state constitution should be hard to amend.