Eighth Circuit Reverses in Arkansas Initiative Qualification Case, Holding Trial Court Should Not Have Lessened Requirements Due to COVID-19: Weird Ideas about “Severe Burdens”

Opinion here. A snippet:

Robert Allen is a registered voter in Arkansas undergoing chemotherapy to treat his stage IV bladder cancer. With the exception of medical appointments, Allen’s doctors advised him to stay home and limit in-person contact to his wife and healthcare workers. Adella Gray is a registered voter living in an Arkansas retirement community with over 400 other residents, all of whom, including Gray, are particularly vulnerable to COVID–19 because of their age. Both Allen and Gray want to sign AVF’s initiative petition but claim they cannot comply with Arkansas’s in-person signature requirement without putting their health and the health of others at serious risk. This, they claim, prevents an AVF canvasser, like Bonnie Miller, from safely soliciting their signatures….

Even absent section 7-9-103(a)(1)(B), however, one can imagine relatively simple ways for individuals like Allen and Gray to safely comply with the in-person signature requirement during the COVID–19 pandemic. As Arkansas illustrates in its brief, for example, AVF can advertise its petition using traditional and social media and bring the sterilized petition to Allen’s and Gray’s homes where it can be safely transferred with little to no contact. No doubt, the in-person signature requirement imposes real burdens. We are just not persuaded it imposes severe burdens. Strict scrutiny is therefore not applicable.

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