Attorney General of Arkansas — Opinion
Opinion Delivered January 30, 2008
DUSTIN McDANIEL, Attorney General
Mr. Chuck Lange, Executive Director Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association # 1 Sheriffs Lane North Little Rock, Arkansas 72114
Dear Mr. Lange:
This is in response to your request for certification, pursuant to A.C.A. § 7-9-107 (Repl. 2000), of the popular name and ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment. Your popular name and ballot title are as follows:
Popular Name FOUR YEAR TERMS FOR COUNTY SHERIFFS Ballot Title
A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT CHANGING THE TERM OF OFFICE OF COUNTY SHERIFF FROM THE CURRENT TWO (2) YEARS TO FOUR (4) YEARS; MAKING THE AMENDMENT APPLICABLE TO THOSE SHERIFFS WHO ARE ELECTED IN 2010 AND THEREAFTER; AND REPEALING ALL PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION IN CONFLICT WITH THE AMENDMENT
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, if he can do so, or if the proposed popular name and
ballot title are sufficiently misleading, may reject the entire petition. Neither certification nor rejection of a popular name andballot title reflects my view of the merits of the proposal. This Officehas been given no authority to consider the merits of any measure.
In this regard, 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. In addition, following Arkansas Supreme Court precedent, this office will not address the constitutionality of proposed measures in the context of a ballot title review unless the measure is “clearly contrary to law.” Kurrus v. Priest, 342 Ark. 434, 29 S.W.3d 669 (2000); Donovan v. Priest, 326 Ark. 353, 931 S.W.2d 119
(1996); and Plugge v. McCuen, 310 Ark. 654, 841 S.W.2d 139 (1992). 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 amendment.
The purpose of my review and certification is to ensure that thepopular name and ballot title honestly, intelligibly, and fairly setforth the purpose of the proposed amendment. See Arkansas Women’sPolitical Caucus v. Riviere, 283 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 amendment 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; and 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, it is my conclusion that the popular name and ballot title you have proposed for this measure are sufficient. They are therefore hereby certified as submitted.
Pursuant to A.C.A. § 7-9-108, instructions to canvassers and signers must precede every petition, informing them of the privileges granted by the Constitution and of the penalties imposed for violations of this act. Enclosed herewith, over the signature of the Attorney General, are instructions that should be incorporated in your petition prior to circulation.
DUSTIN McDANIEL, Attorney General