Earlier this year, the Arkansas legislature passed HB 2036, which moves the petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties from April to January 2, and moves the petition deadline for non-presidential independent candidates from May 1 to March 1. The bill passed the House 83-1, and passed the Senate 35-0. The only state legislator who voted against the bill was Representative John Walker (D-Little Rock). Green Party legislator Fred Smith did not vote on the bill.
The bill, as introduced, only affected independent candidates, but just before it passed the House on April 6, it was amended to also move the deadline for newly-qualifying parties.
Both halves of the bill are unconstitutional. Three times, federal courts in Arkansas have struck down similar laws relating to newly-qualifying parties, and twice federal courts in Arkansas have struck down similar laws for independent candidate petition deadlines. The March petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties was declared unconstitutional the first time in 1977, in American Party of Arkansas v Jernigan, 424 F.Supp.943. The legislature then moved the deadline to May. But in 1987, having forgotten about the 1977 decision, the legislature moved the deadline to January. That was held unconstitutional in Citizens to Establish a Reform Party v Priest, 970 F.Supp.690 (1996). The legislature then lowered the number of signatures for a new party but did not amend the deadline. In 2006, the January deadline was again struck down in Green Party of Arkansas v Daniels, 445 F.Supp.2d 1056.
The non-presidential independent candidate April petition deadline was struck down in 1977 in Lendall v Jernigan, an unreported 3-judge U.S. District Court decision. The U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed it, also in 1977, 433 U.S. 901. The legislature moved the deadline to May, but then in 1987 forgot about that decision also, and moved the deadline to January. That deadline was struck down in Lendall v McCuen, an unreported U.S. District Court decision, eastern district, LR-C-88-311.