LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — In a story July 3 about the deadline to submit petitions for ballot measures, The Associated Press reported erroneously that alcohol sales are illegal in 35 of the state's counties. Alcohol sales are illegal in 37 counties.
A corrected version of the story, which was a preview of weekend activities that have since past, is below:
Campaigns make last push before petition deadline
Ballot measure campaigns in Arkansas making last push for signatures before Monday deadline
By ANDREW DeMILLO
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Beyond fireworks, American flags and barbecue, be prepared for another sight at Arkansas' Fourth of July festivals and parades this weekend: Someone asking for signatures.
Supporters of efforts to raise the state's minimum wage, legalize medical and recreational uses of marijuana and expand alcohol sales are making a last push to gather signatures over the holiday weekend as they near the deadline to submit petitions to the state.
Groups campaigning for the four ballot initiatives said they're hopeful they'll be able to turn in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot on Monday, and plan to spend the next few days gathering and counting signatures. Dozens of paid workers and volunteers will be fanning out across the state at various events over the weekend.
"To tell you the honest truth, the Fourth of July will either make us or break us," said Melissa Fults, who heads up Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which hopes to get its initiated act legalizing medical marijuana on the November ballot. "We're very close, but we're hopeful the Fourth of July festivities will help get us there."
The medical marijuana measure is one of two proposed initiated acts vying for a spot on the November ballot. To qualify, supporters will have to submit at least 62,507 signatures from registered voters. Proposed constitutional amendments need at least 78,133 signatures.
The other proposed initiated act is a plan to gradually raise Arkansas' minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. The proposal has the backing of the state's top Democratic candidates, who view it as a campaign issue in the November election. Arkansas is one of only four states with a minimum wage lower than the federal rate of $7.25 per hour, so the national rate takes precedence.
Steve Copley, the head of the Give Arkansas a Raise Now campaign, said his group already has more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot but said canvassers will continue circulating petitions before Monday's deadline.
"The more you can gather, the better it is," Copley said. "When you have basically three of four extra days before the deadline, why not reach out and get some more signatures? "
Workers will also be gathering signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize alcohol sales in every Arkansas county. David Couch, who chairs the Let Arkansas Decide campaign, said the group has gathered more than 60,000 signatures and will have 70 paid signature gatherers around the state this weekend. Alcohol sales are not legal in 37 of the 75 counties.
"If everybody does average, we should be fine to turn in the minimum we need," Couch said.
The other proposed constitutional amendment would legalize recreational use of marijuana. Robert Reed, who heads the campaign for that measure, said he'll be spending the weekend counting signatures that have been collected. Reed said he didn't have an exact count on how many signatures have already been gathered, but was hopeful he'd have enough to make Monday's deadline.
It will take the secretary of state's office a few days to do an initial count of the signatures submitted and to check the petitions. If the proposals clear the initial count, officials will then begin checking to make sure the signatures submitted are valid. If the petitions have cleared the initial count but fall short during verification, they'll have an additional 30 days to gather more signatures.
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