The effort to establish an independent redistricting commission by ballot initiative in Arkansas is facing challenges getting on the ballot for the November 2020 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Arkansas Voters First, the plaintiffs in Miller v. Thurston are challenging the extensive requirements for gathering signatures under existing state law. Currently, Arkansas mandates the gathering of more than 89,000 signatures from registered voters, for the petition to be signed in the presence of a canvasser, and that the canvasser also sign an affidavit in the presence of a notary. With current social distancing guidelines and limitations on gatherings, the plaintiffs argue that requiring the collection of tens of thousands of signatures in-person is an undue burden on accessing the ballot and their First and equal Fourteenth Amendment rights.
On May 25, 2020, the federal district court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction by allowing signature gathering to continue while striking the in-person witnessing and notarization requirements. This will allow voters to sign the petition at home and mail it in, limiting in-person interactions during this pandemic.