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Arkansas Petition to Vote on Abortion Rights Amendment Rejected

Arkansas Petition to Vote on Abortion Rights Amendment Rejected

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) has rejected petitions to bring an abortion access measure to a vote this fall, citing a procedural error by the organizing group.

Arkansans for Limited Government has collected more than 100,000 signatures for a bill that would legalize abortion up to 18 weeks after conception, with exceptions thereafter in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or threat of physical violence to the pregnant patient. The group faced a daunting challenge in pushing its constitutional amendment initiative in what is sometimes called “the most pro-life state in America.”

Thurston said the group did not submit a document naming the paid canvassers or a signed statement confirming that the required information about their role had been provided to the paid canvassers. He added that when the signatures collected by the paid canvassers were removed, the number of signatures was reduced to 87,382, below the ballot inclusion threshold of 90,704.

“Because you have failed this first step, it is my duty to reject your application,” he said in a letter to the group.

Arkansans for Limited Government said in a statement after the election that it had complied with the demands and would “fight this ridiculous disqualification attempt with everything we have.”

The group also said it worked with the Secretary of State’s office throughout the process, using affidavit documents provided by the office to provide the state with a list of paid canvassers and required information associated with their employment.

“To now claim that we have failed to provide the required documentation regarding paid solicitors is absurd and patently undeniably incorrect,” he said.

The group said it emailed the required signed statement to the office “more than a dozen times.”

Thurston’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Arkansas’ anti-abortion Republicans endorsed Thurston’s decision. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said progressive abortion rights advocates in Arkansas “have proven themselves to be both immoral and incompetent.”

Tim Griffin, Arkansas Attorney General said In a social media post, he said that “failure to respect such a fundamental requirement is inexcusable.” He added that abortion rights advocates “have no one to blame but themselves.”

“As I have long said, amending the Arkansas Constitution involves a rigorous process, as it should be, and it requires that sponsors adhere to all applicable laws and rules,” he said.

Abortion will be on the ballot in a dozen states in November, with voters being asked to decide on the issue following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade In June 2022, they largely approved measures to preserve or expand access to abortion and rejected those that sought to restrict it, even in the most conservative states.

Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.