In November, Arkansas voters will be deciding on a number of ballot initiatives concerning proposed amendments to the Arkansas Constitution.
Jefferson County voters can cast ballots at early voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, to Friday, Oct. 28, and Monday, Oct. 31, to Friday, Nov. 4; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, and Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Jefferson County Courthouse. The last day for early voting is Monday, Nov. 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8, and voters need to go to their polling locations between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Kymara Seals, policy director of Arkansas Public Policy Panel, discussed ballot initiatives Thursday at a forum sponsored by the Pine Bluff Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. in collaboration with the Divine Nine Panhellenic Council and the Pine Bluff Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Seals advised people to log onto www.uaex.edu/ballot and read the initiatives in their entirety. The Public Policy Center produced an unbiased and non-partisan study from which Seals gave her report.
“You will be an informed voter,” Seals said. “Different groups have their spin. We are not doing that.”
Wanda Neal, president of the Pine Bluff branch of the NAACP, welcomed citizens to the panel and encouraged them to exercise their rights.
“Our votes count and our lives matter,” Neal said.
Ballot Issue 1 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution concerning the terms, election, and eligibility of elected officials. It is asking voters to consider four changes: 1. To allow four-year terms for elected county officials: county judge, sheriff, circuit clerk, county clerk, assessor, coroner, treasurer, county surveyor and tax collector. 2. to prevent certain elected officials from also being appointed or elected to a civil office; 3. to allow unopposed candidates to be elected without their names appearing on the ballot; 4. to define what “infamous crimes” means in regards to who is prohibited from holding an elected position.
Ballot Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment to allow the governor to retain his or her powers and duties when he or she is absent from Arkansas.
“When our governor leaves, he leaves his power here and the lieutenant governor picks up,” Seals said. “If you vote yes, you are saying he or she can continue to have power.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson was visiting China on Thursday night to promote Arkansas rice growers and poultry farmers. Twenty-one states allow their respective governors to retain one’s authority while travelling outside one’s state.
“Some arguments are with all the technology we have nowadays, it’s easy to stay connected,” Seals said.
Ballot Issue 3 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development.
Issue 4 is an amendment to limit attorney contingency fees and non-economic damages in medical lawsuits. The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled against this item but it will remain on the ballot.
Issue 5 is an amendment to allow three casinos to operate in Arkansas, one each in the following counties: Boone County, operated by Arkansas Gaming and Resorts; Miller County, operated by Miller County Gaming; and Washington County, operated by Washington County Gaming.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled against this item but it will remain on the ballot. The results will not be counted.
Issue 6 is the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. A yes vote means a person supports changing the Arkansas Constitution to legalize the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. A no vote means a person opposes such measures.
Seals said supporters of Issue 6 contend that more than 80 percent of Arkansans support patients being allowed to use medical marijuana when prescribed by a doctor. This proposal does not include a provision allowing patients to grow marijuana if they do not live by a dispensary.
Opponents of Issue 6 contend that there are Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment alternatives. Opponents contend Issue 6 would create a hardship on business owners to protect against drug use in their workplaces.
Issue 7 is the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. A yes vote means a person supports legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. A no vote means a person opposes such a measure.
Divine Nine includes nine Greek letter organizations: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.