Laws and Court Cases

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Election Law of 1891

The passage of the Election Law of 1891 was essential to the solidification of power in the state for Democrats during the post-Reconstruction era and was the first step in making Arkansas a one-party state. In conjunction with the subsequent Poll Tax Amendment, controversially passed during the 1892 general election, the Election Law of 1891 effectively disfranchised African Americans in Arkansas and legally suppressed Republican and third-party political opposition. By 1888, Democratic Party officials in Arkansas were expressing concern about perceived election fraud in the state and the threat of federal oversight of state elections. Evidence of widespread election fraud and the highly publicized murder of Republican candidate John M. Clayton brought about mounting calls for election reform legislation. After much …

Eminent Domain

The Arkansas and U.S. Constitutions permit the process of eminent domain, which is the taking of private property for public purposes as long as there is just compensation paid to the owner, legal authorization for the taking, and an observance of procedural due process. Eminent domain can be used to obtain property for public purposes such as improvement districts, electric power lines, natural-gas pipelines, irrigation and drainage companies, cemeteries, roadways, bridges, dams, and state colleges and universities. Interpretation of the term “public purpose” has produced much of the case law on eminent domain, including Pfeifer v. City of Little Rock, a 2001 Arkansas case, and Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case; these cases …

Epperson v. Arkansas

Epperson v. Arkansas, a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenged the right of a state to outlaw the teaching of evolution in public schools. On November 12, 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that Arkansas’s Initiated Act Number 1, an antievolution law approved by Arkansas voters in 1928, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional, thus setting a legal trend for the nation as a whole. The antievolution movement in Arkansas came into its own just as it was declining nationwide. The 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial made fundamentalist groups objects of ridicule and thus sent them retreating from the cultural and political mainstream. In January 1927, however, State Representative Astor L. Rotenberry of Pulaski …

Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for women. Sent to the states in the spring of 1972, it fell short of the required ratification by three-quarters—thirty-eight—of the states. Arkansas was one of the fifteen states that did not ratify the amendment by the deadline established in the congressional directive sending the amendment to the states. However, it has periodically become the object of renewed efforts at ratification. The amendment, which was passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1972 and then sent on to the states for ratification, states: Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United …