|Updated: 8/21/2012 7:54 pm
||Published: 8/21/2012 5:54 pm
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday said it won't delay certification of ballots while justices consider a lawsuit over a casino legalization proposal, a move that election officials said could lead to the proposal appearing on some ballots even if it's rejected.
The deadline to certify candidates and measures for the November ballot is Thursday. Justices denied a motion by the secretary of state's office to extend the deadline until at least Sept. 7. A letter from the court clerk to the secretary of state's office did not give a reason for denying the motion.
Justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments Sept. 6 in Texas businessman Michael Wasserman's lawsuit challenging the state's decision to deny his petitions for the proposed amendment. Wasserman has argued that the state should have given him more time to gather additional signatures.
At least 78,133 signatures from registered voters must be submitted to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.
A spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin's office said it's still possible to remove Wasserman's proposal from the November ballot if the court rules quickly but that it's possible the measure could remain on some county ballots.
If the state prevails in the lawsuit, "the votes won't be counted," spokesman Alex Reed said.
Wasserman's proposal would give him the exclusive rights to operate casinos in seven Arkansas counties. Professional poker player Nancy Todd has proposed a competing measure that would give her exclusive rights to operate casinos in four counties.
Tuesday's order could also affect Todd's proposal and a medical marijuana initiative that backers hope to get on the ballot. Todd said she plans to turn in additional signatures Wednesday to qualify her measure for the November ballot. Martin's office last week rejected the wording of the proposal and said it can't appear on the ballot.
Todd has proposed new language for her amendment. Martin's office is also reviewing thousands of signatures submitted by supporters of a proposed initiated act that would legalize medical marijuana. The group, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, needs at least 62,507 signatures from registered voters to qualify.
Wasserman has argued Martin's office improperly rejected his petitions when it said he didn't meet a requirement that signatures from at least 15 counties equal at least 5 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's election. He fell short in Prairie, Saline and Woodruff counties. Martin's office on Tuesday asked justices to dismiss the lawsuit.
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