From Ballot Access News by Richard Winger:
On February 6, the Arkansas House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee passed SB 163, the bill that raises the number of signatures for a newly-qualifying party from 10,000 signatures to 3% of the last gubernatorial vote. The bill passed on a voice vote, so there is no specific tally, but it appeared all the Democrats, and a few Republicans, voted against the bill. The committee has 20 members.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Trent Garner, claimed that the 2006 decision striking down the 3% petition that was in effect then has been overruled. That is not true. There have been no Eighth Circuit opinions on the number of signatures needed for new parties since 1980, when the North Dakota party petition of 15,000 signatures was struck down in McLain v Meier. And many U.S. District Courts inside the Eighth Circuit have issued favorable rulings in recent years. In 2018 a U.S. District Court in South Dakota struck down the South Dakota party petition rules, even though the old law had been used successfully several times by the Libertarian and Constitution Parties. In 2018 a U.S. District Court in Nebraska struck down the 10% petition for independent candidates in that state. Even in Arkansas, last year a U.S. District Court struck down the January petition deadline.
During the period when Arkansas last had a 3% petition for new parties, 1977 through 2006, not once did a newly-qualifying party manage to complete the petition. Even the Reform Party failed in 1996, but a court put it on the ballot and struck down the law, but the legislature ignored the decision until the state was sued again in 2006.