Archive for the ‘Oklahoma Initiative and Referendum’ Category

Civil Rights For O.K

November 27, 2007

Last November, as Republicans across the country suffered a sweeping defeat, voters in the blue state of Michigan gave conservatives at least one reason to celebrate by passing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot measure to abolish racial preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting. Buoyed by their success in California, Washington. and Michigan, opponents of preferences, led by the American Civil Rights Institute, are moving forward on their most ambitious project yet: a drive to pass similar ballot initiatives in five states in 2008. Of course, they face organized and entrenched opposition in all five states. But surprisingly, they face a uniquely difficult set of challenges in the red state of Oklahoma, where institutional and political forces conspire against those who would put ballot measures directly before the people.

Oklahoma’s initiative and referendum process is among the most onerous in the United States. If a citizen or group wants to put a measure on the ballot, they only have 90 days to gather over 165,000 signatures (only Massachusetts limits petitioners to a shorter time frame). In addition, only residents of Oklahoma can circulate petitions, so out-of-state groups are limited to an advisory and/or fundraising role. Other states have similar residency requirements, but Oklahoma is unique in that a recent Oklahoma court decision interpreted the law to mean that only people who intend to be “permanent” residents of the state can gather signatures. Anyone who moves to Oklahoma temporarily to help put an initiative on the ballot does so at his peril.

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