LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily blocked the state from enforcing a requirement that signatures on initiative petitions be witnessed in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes on Monday issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing a requirement that signatures on petitions be witnessed in person. Holmes also blocked a requirement that canvassers sign an affidavit in the presence of a notary.
Holmes, however, declined to push back the state’s July 3 deadline for submitting petitions by a month or to allow the use of electronic signatures.
Holmes issued the ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by Arkansas Voters First, which is trying to get a redistricting measure on the ballot. The group sued the state last month and said the pandemic has made it nearly impossible to collect the 89,151 signatures from registered voters needed to qualify for the November election.
Removing the in-person signature requirements will help initiative campaigns continue while following social distancing guidelines, David Couch, an attorney for the group, said.
“This allows people to sign the petition at a distance,” Couch said.
The group’s proposed constitutional amendment would put a nine-member commission in charge of redrawing congressional and legislative districts