Since Citizens of Arkansas for Public Education and Students (CAPES) turned in enough signatures to make certain folks sweat while the official totals are calculate, the grifters and ghouls who are trying to destroy public education in Arkansas through the LEARNS Act are suddenly whining a new disingenuous tune. Specifically, they are complaining that CAPES gathered signatures only in Democratic-voting strongholds, such that this was clearly a partisan Democratic effort and does not reflect a statewide opposition to LEARNS.
Sanders sycophant and noted liar Nic Horton led the charge with this tweet:
And, by “interesting,” I mean, “stupid and pointless.”
Let’s back up, though, and start with some background and numbers to put all of this in context and get everyone on the same page. (We’ll try to keep the math to a minimum for the lawyers and Hortons in the crowd.)
To stop the implementation of the LEARNS Act through the referendum process and get LEARNS on the 2024 ballot so that the people of Arkansas can vote on it, CAPES was required to get signatures totaling 6% percent of the total votes cast for governor of the preceding general election, or 54,422 signatures.1 Because of another act,2 Attorney General Tim Griffin had the final say over the adequacy of CAPES’ petition’s title, and he used that power to slow-play the approval process and shorten the time period for collecting signatures from the normal 90 days to 55 days.
If you are a mathy type, you might have noticed that 54,422 is 6% of 907,033 (the total votes cast for Governor in 2022). However, 907,033 is not the entire pool of potential signatories from which CAPES could pull, as there are currently 1,737,245 registered voters in Arkansas.3
Now, if you had 55 days to get 54,422 signatures from across the state of Arkansas, would you focus your efforts on areas of higher or lower population density? Would it make more sense to spend hours in a place where you might run into a few hundred willing signors, or would you allocate a ton of resources and time to areas where you might not see 100 people all day?
To take that a step further, recall that CAPES was doing all of this with volunteers. Where do you think you are more likely to find more volunteers–areas with very few people or areas with comparatively more people?
(These questions should be rhetorical, but given what we’ve seen from Horton, et al., I should clarify that the answer is, “I would spend the bulk of my efforts in higher population density areas.”)
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ten Arkansas counties with the highest number of registered voters:
|County||Number of Registered Voters (as of 8/1/23)|
Collectively, these ten counties account for 972,665 registered voters, or roughly 56% of the registered voters in this state. Meaning–at the risk of belaboring the point–that the other sixty-five counties in the state combined account for only 44% of the pool of potential signors for a referendum petition.
Now, let’s look at the top-10 table again, but let’s include the rough percentage of the total signatures that CAPES got from each of them. (Note: percentages from CAPES’ initial batch of turned-in signatures)
|County||# of Registered Voters||% of CAPES signatures|
So, out of the counties that account for 56% of the potential signors, CAPES got…around 65% of the total signatures that they collected. And this is shocking or proof of something partisan why, exactly?
What I mean is, you have the ten counties with the most potential signors and you have the eight most population-dense counties, as well as the 10th (Lonoke) and 14th (White) most dense. Getting 65% of your signatures from those ten counties is not remotely out of line with what one would expect in that situation.
Nevertheless, Nic and the rest of the pro-LEARNS people are pushing two similar, but distinct, narratives about the signature collection.
First, there’s Nic’s whining about how 55% of the signatures collected came from Pulaski, Benton, Garland, Faulkner, and Washington Counties. That’s one of those things…what’s the word…when a person is just blatantly dishonest…oh, right: a lie. That’s a lie. Those five counties, as you can see in the table above, accounted for 39.6% of the total signatures collected.
Which is to say, those five counties, which account for 39.4% (684,301 out of 1,737,245) of the total potential signatures also accounted for 39.6% of the signatures gathered. OH MY GOD, THE HORROR OF ACTUALLY RECEIVING NOTICEABLY FEWER SIGNATURES FROM THOSE AREAS THAT ONE WOULD EXPECT.
So where did Nic Horton get 55% from those five counties? I honestly have no idea. My suspicion is either that he’s even worse at math than he is at logical thought generally or he’s just making stuff up and hoping that no one bothers to fact check him.
Their second whine about the signatures collected is that Washington and Pulaski Counties are overrepresented, which proves that this is just a partisan, Democratic effort, since those counties also went for Chris Jones in 2022. Except, yet again, the math is not their friend.
Washington and Pulaski Counties account for 21.7% of the potential signors (376,265 out of 1,737,245), and they collectively accounted for…wait for it…21.6% of the signatures gathered. This is argument is somehow even dumber than the previous one.
One other contention that seems to be floating around today, though somewhat related to the last one, is that Democratic-leaning counties are overrepresented here. This argument seems to be based on the fact that the two highest-tallying counties (Washington and Pulaski) are counties that Chris Jones won in 2022, while Sanders won overall with 62% of the vote.
Ignoring for a moment that Sanders’ vote total in 2022 is not germane to this discussion beyond being part of the total that determines how many signatures CAPES needed on their petition, this argument is still patently absurd. Of the ten counties listed above, which (again) comprise 65% of the total signatures collected, Sanders won eight of them. In those eight counties, Jones got 31.8% of the cumulative vote (100,270 votes out of 315,855 cast).
So CAPES got 43.3% of their signatures in counties that Sanders won and in which Jones only received 31.8% of the vote. But you want me to believe that this signature gathering was a highly partisan activity that overrepresented Democrats? Seriously? That’s your conclusion?
Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that Nic Horton and those parroting his dishonest numbers and idiotic conclusions were more concerned with protecting the LEARNS grift than with having any sort of informed discussion about the opposition to the bill. It’s much easier to try to convince Joe Arkansan that the opposition is just a few loud Democrats in a few counties than a bipartisan coalition of Arkansans from across the state.
It’s even easier to do that when you base your initial tweet on a lie about the percentages coming from the five counties that you cherry picked.
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For purposes of this post, we’ll ignore the blatantly unconstitutional changes to the number of counties that CAPES was required to get at least 3% from, since that is almost certain to be struck down. We’ll note that here only to say that the Republican legislature’s passage of that change after the people of Arkansas rejected it at the ballot in 2022 is one of the most egregious attempts at a power grab that we’ve seen in a minute.↩
Which also had an improperly passed emergency clause and should have been challenged on the front end to avoid having to deal with Griffin at all↩
Meaning, yes, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elected Governor by winning less than 33% of the possible total votes from Arkansans. Which is unspeakably depressing.↩