Voters in Arkansas will decide whether to raise the minimum wage, Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) said Wednesday, after supporters turned in more than twice as many signatures as required to make the ballot.
The measure, Issue No. 5, would raise the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2016, and to $8.50 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017.
State Democrats hope the measure will convince otherwise reluctant voters to turn out on Election Day. Supporters of a minimum wage hike are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, the thinking goes. That would help Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who finds himself in a tough race against Rep. Tom Cotton (R).
“I think that would be good for Arkansas. I think that would be good for people in this state. We have a lot of minimum wage people in this state. I think it would be good and it would help the standard of living and what not,” Pryor told a local television station last year. He has since endorsed the measure.
Cotton has not taken a position on the proposed increase. But Pryor’s campaign has made clear it will use the issue as a contrast in the fall.
“One way Democrats hope to get their base out is by putting ballot initiatives in states with tough races, to give people a reason to vote,” Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Political Report, told our colleague Greg Sargent.
In a statement, Martin said his office had verified more than 70,000 valid signatures turned in by supporters. They needed 62,507 legitimate signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. After initially falling short, supporters ultimately turned in a total of nearly 130,000 signatures; Martin’s office is still validating the remainder.