Largest OK Paper Calls for Easing Initiative Requirements

Mon, Oct 27 2014 by Neal Hobson

Gathering 155,000 signatures in 90 days on a petition is a tough ask, even for the most seasoned petitioners. In Oklahoma this is the reality, with only 3 of more than 24 statewide initiatives since 1998 making it to the ballot.

On Sunday, the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, published an editorial entitled, “Oklahoma initiative petition process needs to change,” which called the state’s petition requirement “too steep.” The paper added, “Lawmakers should study this issue and come up with a lower threshold, one that doesn’t open the ballot to silliness but does give everyday citizens a reasonable chance to possibly effect change.”

According to Oklahoma City attorney Ken Meyers, the process of petitioning is becoming “inaccessible, except to the very few.” Due to the costs involved, many smaller, grassroots campaigns are not able to muster the manpower to gather so many signatures in such a short time. This clearly shows the need for changes in the Oklahoma state initiative and referendum process to make it accessible to all citizens.
In 2010, Citizens in Charge worked with Let Oklahoma Vote to campaign for and pass a constitutional amendment referred by the state legislature. The amendment reduced the signature requirement for initiatives by 37 percent by changing the way the 15 percent signature requirement was calculated — from 15 percent of the vote for president to 15 percent of the vote for governor. Yet, the biggest problem faced by petition campaigns in Oklahoma is the very short 90-day window for gathering the signatures. Nationwide the average petition period for initiatives is closer to a year.

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