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Arkansas official rejects bid to put abortion rights measure on ballot

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

Arkansans for Limited Government gathered more than 100,000 signatures in support of a ballot proposal to legalize abortion up to 18 weeks after fertilization, and exceptions afterward in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly or threat of physical harm to the pregnant patient. The group has faced a significant challenge in promoting its constitutional amendment initiative in what is sometimes ranked the “most pro-life state in America.”

Thurston said the group failed to submit a document naming paid canvassers and a signed statement confirming that paid canvassers had been provided with required information about their role. He added that when signatures gathered by paid canvassers were removed, it reduced the number to 87,382, below the threshold for ballot inclusion of 90,704.

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

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

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

“Asserting now that we didn’t provide required documentation regarding paid canvassers is absurd and demonstrably, undeniably incorrect,” it said.

The group said it had 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.

Antiabortion Republicans in Arkansas voiced approval of Thurston’s decision. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said liberal abortion rights advocates in Arkansas “showed they are both immoral and incompetent.”

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a social media post that “failure to follow such a basic requirement is inexcusable.” He added that the abortion rights advocates “have no one to blame but themselves.”

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

Abortion will be on the ballot in about a dozen states in November. When voters have been asked to vote on the issue since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022, they have largely approved measures that sought to preserve or expand abortion access and rejected those that have sought to restrict it, even in more conservative states.

Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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