A group seeking to place on the November ballot an initiated act to raise the state minimum wage submitted what it said were 69,070 additional signatures in support of the measure to the secretary of state’s office Monday.
Give Arkansas a Raise Now previously fell short of the 62,507 signatures needed to place a proposed initiated act on the ballot, but the group qualified for an additional 30 days to make up the 15,107 signatures it lacked. Monday was the deadline to submit new signatures.
The proposal would raise the state minimum wage gradually from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017.
The secretary of state’s office will validate the signatures to make sure they belong to registered Arkansas voters.
Matthew Haas of Little Rock, a member of Give Arkansas a Raise Now, told reporters he expects the measure to be certified for the ballot.
"We turned in over 60,000 signatures in addition to what we’ve already turned in, so I feel pretty confident we’ll make the cut," said Haas, who is also CEO of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association.
"I think there’s a high demand that we give Arkansas a raise, period. I think everybody believes if you work 40 hours a week no one should have to worry where their food’s coming from to feed their children at night," he said.
The group hired The Markham Group of Little Rock to gather signatures for the measure. Canvassers were collecting signatures up until minutes before they turned them in, said Markham Group employee Greg Hale.
Arkansas is one of four states that have a minimum wage lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Arkansas businesses with annual revenue of less than $500,000 are allowed to pay workers less than the federal minimum wage, with some exceptions.
On Friday, the group Let Arkansas Decide submitted additional signatures in support of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow statewide alcohol sales. A ballot committee formed to oppose that proposal, Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves, has said it will file a lawsuit if the measure gets on the ballot because Let Arkansas Decide made its initial submission of signatures on July 7, which was less than two months away from the Nov. 4 election.
The Arkansas Constitution contains language requiring that signatures in support of statewide ballot proposals be submitted at least two months before an election. The secretary of state’s office has said it properly accepted the signatures on July 7 because July 4 was a holiday and July 5-6 was a weekend.
The controversy could affect the minimum-wage proposal as well, because Give Arkansas a Raise Now also made its first submission of signatures on July 7. Haas said Monday he was not concerned, however.
"I’m pretty confident that we’ve met all of our due diligence," he said.