LITTLE ROCK – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas, on behalf of For AR Kids, filed a complaint today against the Town of Rose Bud, Arkansas, and Mayor Shawn Gorham in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. The lawsuit challenges recently enacted restrictions on canvassers at the town’s Summerfest event, arguing that these restrictions violate the First Amendment rights of political petitioners.

For AR Kids, a citizen-led ballot question committee advocating to qualify their proposed constitutional amendment, the “Educational Rights Amendment of 2023,” for Arkansas’s Nov. 2024 ballot, planned to collect petition signatures at Summerfest from June 20-22. However, on June 17, the Town of Rose Bud passed an ordinance that severely limits the ability of ballot question committees to collect signatures at town-sponsored events. 

The ordinance mandates that these committees must rent a booth on event grounds and restricts canvassing activities to within the confines of that booth, with the booth location being at the Town’s discretion. Additionally, canvassers are prohibited from soliciting signatures on public property outside the festival grounds.

“The ordinance imposed by the Town of Rose Bud is riddled with First Amendment problems,” said John C. Williams, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “It is not content-neutral, improperly restricts speech in a public forum, places a prior restraint on core political speech, and appears to be an intentional act of viewpoint discrimination. These actions undermine the very principles of free speech and democratic participation that are fundamental to our society.”

The complaint filed by the ACLU seeks injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent the Town from enforcing the ordinance during Summerfest. It argues that the restrictions unfairly target those who seek to advocate for political change through the petition process, while allowing others to freely express opposing views. The lawsuit requests that the Court issue an immediate temporary restraining order to ensure that For AR Kids can exercise its constitutional rights at Summerfest.

“For AR Kids and other ballot question committees must have access to public events and properties to collect the necessary signatures for their petitions,” said Holly Dickson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “The ability to engage in political speech and petition activities is crucial for democratic participation and must be protected from arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions.”

The ACLU of Arkansas is committed to defending the rights of people and groups to freely express their views and participate in the democratic process. This lawsuit is part of the organization’s broader effort to safeguard free speech and uphold the constitutional rights of all Arkansans.

A copy of the complaint can be found here. For more information about this case and the ACLU of Arkansas’s work, please visit: