In addition to choosing local and federal candidates, Arkansas voters will weigh in on three proposed constitutional amendments related to sales tax, term limits and direct democracy.
The boxes for each of the three issues on this year's ballot include their official and popular titles, in addition to a brief summary. However, not all the names and summaries clearly explain the details of what would occur if each amendment is passed, which could leave some voters in the dark about what they're actually deciding on.
The passage of Issue 1, the "Transportation Sales Tax Continuation Amendment," would result in the permanent continuation of a 0.5% sales tax that has been charged in Arkansas since 2012. The tax revenue raised is used for improvements to state and local transportation, roads, bridges and highways. The sales tax does not apply to food items.
A “yes” vote would make the sales tax permanent, while a "no" vote to allow the tax to expire in 2023, as it is currently scheduled to.
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration estimates that the tax would raise almost $2.94 million per year. Supporters include Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Opponents include some political organizations, like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform.
If passed, Issue 2, also known as the "Change State Legislative Term Limits Amendment" would shorten the time that a state legislator can serve consecutively to 12 years. Currently, legislators are allowed to serve a lifetime term of 16 years, either consecutively or otherwise. However, the amendment would also abolish lifetime term limits, and politicians would be permitted to serve 12-year-maximum terms every four years for the course of their careers.
A “yes,” vote supports these changes, while a “no” vote supports maintaining current term limits. Supporters of Issue 2 include the two Republican state legislators, Sen. Alan Clark and Rep. Jim Dotson, who sponsored the amendment in the state house and senate. Opponents include several state Democratic lawmakers and the term limit advocacy group U.S. Term Limits.
For Issue 3, or the "Initiative Process and Legislative Referral Requirements Amendment," a “yes,” is a vote to introduce greater requirements for citizen initiative petitions to meet in order to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the Arkansas ballot. A “no” vote endorses requirements remaining as they are.
Issue 3 would require petitions for proposed constitutional amendments to include valid signatures of citizens from 45 counties, rather than the current 15. It would also eliminate the existing 30-day grace period for petitioners to obtain extra signatures if their petition has 75% of necessary signatures but has fallen short of meeting the required number.
The amendment would also require three-fifths of each chamber of the state legislature to vote to refer any proposed constitutional amendment to voters. The current citizen initiative process includes no such legislative involvement. The date to submit a petition would change from four months before the election to January 15 of that year, and challenges to the sufficiency of a ballot measure would have to be filed no later than April 15.
Supporters include Sen. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Opponents include the Arkansas Education Association, the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, and the NAACP of Arkansas.
Issue 6, a referendum regarding the practice of optometry in Arkansas, will also appear on ballots. However, no votes on this issue will be counted because the Arkansas Supreme Court struck it down Sept. 17 over issues with the signature gathering process.