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Arkansas officials say pushing deadline for petitions past holiday a longtime practice


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas election officials on Tuesday defended the July 7 deadline they used for ballot measure petitions, saying it's a longtime practice to push back the date for submitting signatures if it falls on a holiday.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Mark Martin's office said officials were still reviewing a request to block the petitions for a proposal to expand alcohol sales in Arkansas. An attorney for Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves said the state should have used July 4 as the deadline, since that would be four months before the election.

Spokeswoman Laura Labay said the state for nearly nine decades has used the next working day if the deadline falls on a holiday.

"If the deadline falls on a holiday we roll it to the following business day. This has been the Secretary of State standard practice since Amendment 7 went into effect in 1925," Labay said in an email, referring to the amendment setting up the state's initiative process. "We will review the law and do legal research to determine the validity of this issue."

The proposed constitutional amendment by Let Arkansas Decide would legalize alcohol sales in all 75 counties. Currently, 37 counties prohibit alcohol sales. The group is gathering additional signatures after being told last week it was shy of the 78,133 needed from registered voters to qualify. The group has until Aug. 18 to submit additional petitions.

Signatures for another measure also vying the ballot, a proposal to gradually raise Arkansas' minimum wage, were also submitted on the July 7 deadline. The group behind that measure is also gathering additional signatures ahead of an Aug. 18 deadline.

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