LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It was down to the wire Monday for CAPES, as they made their final effort to collect signatures to put the LEARNS Act referendum on the 2024 ballot.
They originally thought they were 375 short but today they announced they don’t think they’re short.
CAPES Executive Director Steve Grappe said Monday was a large group effort.
“It was just like this massive machine was working, and it took us about 3 minutes to get all those petitions downstairs and in the truck, and then we got them out the same way at the secretary of state but when we got there, tons of people were showing up at the secretary of state’s bringing stacks of petition,” Grappe said.
Grappe said after the 5 p.m. deadline, the team got to work verifying the numbers. Trevor McGarrah was on that data team and spent hours combing through the signatures CAPES had.
“I spent several hours looking over documentation as far as the numbers on sticky notes that we had, numbers of boxes, the numbers that we had on spreadsheets, sort of cross-referencing all of those things,” McGarrah said.
Now they believe they qualify for a cure period. The Secretary of State’s Office said to qualify they would need 54,422 signatures, and 75 percent of those to be verified. A cure period would extend the amount of time CAPES has to gather signatures by 30 days.
“We are continuing to collect signatures, we put word out to our team, ‘go get ’em we aren’t stopping,’” Grappe said.
Grappe said as of Monday they don’t think they have three percent of the signatures from all 50 counties in Arkansas, however, they believe they’re operating under the law saying 3 percent of signatures must come from 15 counties in Arkansas.
“When they say well instead of having to have 15 counties you’ve got to have 50 counties which divides our resources, it makes us have to allocate our resources to a larger area, that abridges our process,” Grappe said.
The Secretary of State’s Office says they will be operating under Act 236, which was passed this session under an emergency clause. CAPES challenged this emergency clause, and now it’s under appeal in the Supreme Court.
CAPES and thousands of Arkansans now wait for the official count from the Secretary of State’s office.
“It was one of the most exciting jubilant things that I’ve ever been a part of, and Arkansas came together yesterday,” Grappe said.