Arkansas Attorney General Prevents Amendment Aimed at Safeguarding Government Records Access

On Monday, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin declined the wording of a proposed ballot measure seeking to enshrine the right to access government records and meetings in the state’s constitution.

The rejected proposal, known as the Arkansas Government Transparency Amendment, aimed to make it more challenging for legislators to restrict public access to meetings and records. Griffin’s approval is a prerequisite for the group supporting the measure to initiate the collection of 90,704 signatures from registered voters required for ballot qualification.

The rejection was attributed to a “lack of clarity on key terms,” as critical terms such as government transparency and public record were not defined in the proposal.

“Your proposed text hinges on terms that are undefined and whose definitions would likely give voters serious ground for reflection,” Griffin wrote to proponents.

The organization championing the measure, Arkansas Citizens for Transparency, expressed bewilderment at Griffin’s decision in a statement. They contended that Griffin was demanding a definition standard not required for other constitutional rights.

“The Constitutions do not define free speech, free exercise of religion, or the right to bear arms,” the group said. “Our attorney general’s opinion indicates that the right to government transparency should be more restricted than our other rights in the Constitution.”

Chairing the drafting committee of the group, Democratic Sen. Clarke Tucker stated that they are considering various options, such as submitting a revised proposal, multiple revisions, and potential litigation. Additionally, a companion ballot measure is currently awaiting review by Griffin’s office.

Arkansas Citizens for Transparency came into existence following the enactment of a law by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which constrained the disclosure of records related to her travel and security. Initially, Sanders had suggested broader exemptions that would restrict public access to records about her administration, but this proposal encountered opposition from media organizations and some conservatives.