Attorney General of Arkansas — Opinion
Opinion Delivered October 1, 1999
MARK PRYOR, Attorney General
Ms. Denele Campbell Alliance for Reform of Drug Policy in Arkansas 1155 West Sixth PMB A17 Fayetteville, AR 72701
Dear Ms. Campbell:
This is in response to your request for certification, pursuant to A.C.A. § 7-9-107 (Repl. 1993), of the following popular name and ballot title for a proposed initiated act:
POPULAR NAME THE ARKANSAS MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT BALLOT TITLE
AN ACT WHICH ESTABLISHES A PERSON’S RIGHT TO THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA, AS RECOMMENDED BY A PROFESSIONAL PRACTITIONER AND AS MAY BE ASSISTED BY A CAREGIVER, NONE OF WHOM SHALL SUFFER LEGAL OR PROFESSIONAL SANCTIONS AS A RESULT OF SUCH ADVICE OR ACTIVITY
It should be initially noted that this office has received your recent newly submitted proposed popular name and ballot title for this measure, which you indicate is intended to replace the above submission. I will proceed in a timely manner to respond to this re-submission. The response herein is only intended, however, to address the above proposed popular name and ballot title.
The Attorney General is required, pursuant to A.C.A. § 7-9-107, to certify the popular name and ballot title of all proposed initiative and referendum acts or amendments before the petitions are circulated for signature. The law provides that the Attorney General may substitute and certify a more suitable and correct popular name and ballot title, or if the proposed popular name and ballot title are sufficiently misleading, may reject the entire petition.
A.C.A. § 7-9-107 neither requires nor authorizes this office to make legal determinations concerning the merits of the act or amendment, or concerning the likelihood that it will accomplish its stated objective. Consequently, this review has been limited to a determination, pursuant to the guidelines that have been set forth by the Arkansas Supreme Court, discussed below, of whether the proposed popular name and ballot title accurately and impartially summarize the provisions of your proposed act.
The purpose of my review and certification is to ensure that the popular name and ballot title honestly, intelligibly, and fairly set forth the purpose of the proposed measure. See Arkansas Women’s Political Caucus v. Riviere, 282 Ark. 463, 466, 677 S.W.2d 846 (1984).
The popular name is primarily a useful legislative device. Pafford v. Hall, 217 Ark. 734, 233 S.W.2d 72 (1950). It need not contain detailed information or include exceptions that might be required of a ballot title, but it must not be misleading or give partisan coloring to the merit of the proposal. Chaney v. Bryant, 259 Ark. 294, 532 S.W.2d 741
(1976); Moore v. Hall, 229 Ark. 411, 316 S.W.2d 207 (1958). The popular name is to be considered together with the ballot title in determining the ballot title’s sufficiency. Id.
The ballot title must include an impartial summary of the proposed measure that will give the voter a fair understanding of the issues presented. Hoban v. Hall, 229 Ark. 416, 417, 316 S.W.2d 185 (1958); Becker v. Riviere, 270 Ark. 219, 223, 226, 604 S.W.2d 555 (1980). According to the court, if information omitted from the ballot title is an “essential fact which would give the voter serious ground for reflection, it must be disclosed.” Bailey v. McCuen, 318 Ark. 277, 285, 884 S.W.2d 938 (1994), citing Finn v. McCuen, 303 Ark. 418, 798 S.W.2d 34 (1990); Gaines v. McCuen, 296 Ark. 513, 758 S.W.2d 403 (1988); Hoban v. Hall, supra; an Walton v. McDonald, 192 Ark. 1155, 97 S.W.2d 81 (1936). At the same time, however, a ballot title must be brief and concise (see A.C.A. §7-9-107(b)); otherwise voters could run afoul of A.C.A. § 7-5-522‘s five minute limit in voting booths when other voters are waiting in line Bailey v. McCuen, supra. The ballot title is not required to be perfect, nor is it reasonable to expect the title to cover or anticipate every possible legal argument the proposed measure might evoke. Plugge v. McCuen, 310 Ark. 654, 841 S.W.2d 139 (1992). The title, however, must be free from any misleading tendency, whether by amplification, omission, or fallacy; it must not be tinged with partisan coloring. Id. A ballot title must convey an intelligible idea of the scope and significance of a proposed change in the law. Christian Civic Action Committee v. McCuen, 318 Ark. 241, 884 S.W.2d 605 (1994). It has been stated that the ballot title must be: 1) intelligible, 2) honest, and 3) impartial. Becker v. McCuen, 303 Ark. 482, 798 S.W.2d 71 (1990), citing Leigh v. Hall, 232 Ark. 558, 339 S.W.2d 104 (1960).
Applying the above precepts, I must conclude that the proposed ballot title fails to adequately summarize your proposed act. It omits essential facts and fails to give the voter a fair understanding of the issues presented. An effort must be made, in accordance with the above precepts, to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and significance of the proposal. This has not been done with regard to this submission. I am authorized under these circumstances to reject your submission and instruct you to redesign the ballot title in a manner that will not be misleading. See A.C.A. § 7-9-107(c).
MARK PRYOR Attorney General