ACLU of Oklahoma Responds to Attack on Initiative Petition Process With Floor Passage of House Joint Resolution 1027

Affiliate: ACLU of Oklahoma
March 11, 2020 4:00 pm

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ACLU of Oklahoma
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Yesterday the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed HJR 1027, moving forward with a dangerous proposal that infringes on the cornerstone of the democratic process in Oklahoma. If enacted, the resolution could take away the power of Oklahoma voters to implement common-sense policy and hold legislators accountable. The joint resolution, authored by Rep. John Pfeiffer, would require citizens to meet percentage thresholds for signatures in each of the Five Congressional Districts to qualify for the ballot, creating the most restrictive initiative petition process of any state in the country.

“HJR 1027 would end the citizen-led initiative petition in Oklahoma, taking with it one of the most important powers reserved to the people,” said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Now it is up to the Senate to decide if they will protect the power reserved for Oklahoma voters, or if they will be party to one of the most obvious power grabs in state history, one that puts even more power in the hands of elected officials and wealthy donors at the expense of the democratic process.”

Floor debate centered on theoretical future initiatives that the author could take issue with.

“Oklahoma already has one of the shortest petition signature collection time frames of any state with a ballot initiative process. The only state that allows less time for circulation is Massachusetts, which has a lower threshold of the percentage of voters needed to qualify, more densely populated counties, and is almost 60,000mi² smaller in size,” said Nicole McAfee, Director of Policy and Advocacy with the ACLU of Oklahoma. “This resolution attempts to restrict the first right guaranteed to Oklahomans in our Constitution by dividing Oklahomans on urban and rural or along party lines. But this is bigger than that–this is about who benefits when we restrict the power of voters to pass statutory and constitutional changes. This resolution is about silencing citizens and taking power away from the people. If passed, HJR 1027 would create such a restrictive system, Oklahoma would likely never see another citizen-led initiative qualify for the ballot.”

This resolution was sold on the floor as an attempt to solve a problem that does not yet exist. There are urgent issues on the ground that need solutions now, and it would serve the body to focus on real problems for which Oklahomans are urgently seeking solutions.

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