Justia Oklahoma Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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In 2019, Respondents Ryan Kiesel and Michelle Tilley filed State Question No. 807, Initiative Petition No. 423 (SQ 807) with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. SQ 807 proposes for submission to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article 31, which would legalize, regulate, and tax the use of marijuana by adults under Oklahoma law. Petitioner Paul Tay filed this protest alleging the petition was unconstitutional because it violated the federal supremacy provisions of Article VI, clause 2 of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Petitioner alleged the proposed measure was preempted by existing federal statutes including the Controlled Substances Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code. Because the United States Supreme Court did not address this question, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found the Supremacy Clause permitted it to perform its own analysis of federal law. Upon review, the Court held Petitioner did not meet his burden to show clear or manifest facial constitutional infirmities because he did not show State Question No. 807 was preempted by federal law. On the grounds alleged, the petition was deemed legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "In re: State Question No. 807, Initiative Petition No. 423" on Justia Law

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During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Oklahoma Legislature passed HB 2597. Prior to the passage of HB 2597, the Oklahoma criminal code provided it was unlawful to carry a concealed or unconcealed handgun without a license. HB 2597 instituted what was known as "permitless carry" or "constitutional carry." This was accomplished by amending the Oklahoma criminal code to create a new exception to the law generally prohibiting the carrying of firearms. In an original proceeding before the Oklahoma Supreme Court an issue arose over the gist of Initiative Petition No. 425, State Question No. 809. The initiative petition sought to amend the Oklahoma Statutes for the purpose of making it unlawful to carry a concealed or unconcealed handgun without a license. The Petitioner filed this protest alleging the gist of the initiative petition was legally insufficient. The Supreme Court held the gist did not accurately explain the proposal's effect on existing law and is misleading. View "In re: Initiative Petition No. 425, State Question No. 809" on Justia Law

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In October 2019, the Respondents-Proponents Andrew Moore, Janet Ann Largent, and Lynda Johnson filed Initiative Petition No. 420, State Question No. 804 (IP 420), with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. The initiative measure proposed for submission to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). IP 420 was challenged in two separate cases. On February 4, 2020, the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down its decisions in both matters. Two days later, February 6, 2020, the proponents of IP 420 filed a new initiative petition (Initiative Petition No. 426, State Question 810). The Secretary of State published the required notice of the initiative petition on February 13, 2020. Initiative Petition No. 426 (IP 426) was nearly identical to IP 420, creating a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). Like IP 420, it would vest the power to redistrict the State's House of Representatives and Senatorial districts, as well as Federal Congressional Districts, in this newly created Commission. Initiative Petition No. 426, like IP 420, requires the Commission's Secretary to gather information from the Department of Corrections about the home address of state and federal inmates and add this information to the Federal Decennial Census data so that incarcerated people can be counted in their home communities rather than place of incarceration. The issue presented to the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction involved the legal sufficiency of Initiative Petition No. 426, State Question No. 810. The Petitioners contended the petition was unconstitutional because it violated Article 1, section 2, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held Petitioners did not meet their burden to show Initiative Petition No. 426 contained "clear or manifest facial constitutional infirmities." On the grounds alleged, the petition is legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "In re: Initiative Petition No. 426 State Question No. 810" on Justia Law

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Respondents-Proponents Andrew Moore, Janet Ann Largent, and Lynda Johnson filed Initiative Petition No. 420, State Question No. 804 (IP 420), with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. The initiative measure proposed to submit to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). IP 420 would vest the power to redistrict the State's House of Representatives and Senatorial districts, as well as Federal Congressional Districts, in this newly created Commission. IP 420 would also repeal current constitutional provisions concerning state legislative apportionment. Notice of the filing was published on October 31, 2019; within 10 business days, Petitioners Rogers Gaddis and Eldon Merklin petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction to challenge the legal sufficiency of IP 420. They alleged the proposed amendment by article suffered from two fatal constitutional defects: (1) the single subject rule, and (2) the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In case number 118405, the Supreme Court determined IP was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. In case number 118406, however, the Court determined the gist statement of IP 420 did not fairly describe the proposed amendment, and ordered it struck from the ballot. View "In re: Initiative Petition 420, State Question No. 804" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Edward Shadid challenged Oklahoma City Ordinance No. 26,255 (Ordinance)1 which was passed by the City Council of Oklahoma City and signed by the Mayor on September 24, 2019. The Ordinance amended Article II of Chapter 52 of the Oklahoma City Municipal Code, 2010, by creating a new Section 52-23.7. This amendment created a temporary term (8 year) excise tax of 1% to begin April 1, 2020, if approved by a majority vote of qualified, registered voters of Oklahoma City. A special election was set for this purpose on December 10, 2019. Petitioner contends the Ordinance violates the single subject rule found in art. 5, sec. 57, Okla. Const. The Oklahoma Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction to respond to Petitioner's challenge, and concluded the proposed ordinance did not violate the single subject rule found in the Oklahoma Constitution or the single subject rule found in state statute and City of Oklahoma City's charter. Relief was thus denied. View "Shadid v. City of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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On May 1, 2018, Respondents-proponents Dr. Tom Coburn, Brooke McGowan, and Ronda Vuillemont-Smith timely filed Referendum Petition No. 25, State Question No. 799 (the petition) with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. The petition sought to refer HB 1010xx to the people of Oklahoma for their approval or rejection at the regular election to be held on November 6, 2018. Protestants, several educators and organizations purporting to represent Oklahoma educational interests, timely filed an original action protesting the legal sufficiency of the petition, asserting the gist of the petition was legally insufficient for several reasons, and further asserted the petition was legally insufficient for failure to include an exact copy of the text of the measure as required by 34 O.S. Supp. 2015 sec. 1. Finding the referendum was indeed insufficient, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared it invalid and ordered stricken from the November 2018 ballot. View "Oklahoma's Children, Our Future, Inc. v. Coburn" on Justia Law

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Prior to the Oklahoma Voter ID Act, Title 26, Section 7-114 required that "[e]ach person presenting himself to vote shall announce his name to the judge of the precinct, whereupon the judge shall determine whether said person's name is in the precinct registry." In April 2009, the Oklahoma Legislature passed S.B. 692, and referred it for a vote of the people as State Question 746, Legislative Referendum 347. The Voter ID Act was approved on November 2, 2010. The Voter ID Act amended Section 7-114 to require that voters provide proof of identity in the form of a document issued by the United States, the State of Oklahoma, or the government of a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation that showed: (1) the name of the person to whom it was issued (substantially conforming to the name in the precinct registry); (2) a photograph of the person to whom it was issued; and (3) an expiration date after the present election (unless the identification belonged to someone over the age of 65 and is valid indefinitely). The Voter ID Act also provided, as an alternative, that a person could present a voter identification card issued by the appropriate county election board. If a person is unable or unwilling to produce proof of identity, the person could sign a statement under oath swearing that they were the person identified on the precinct registry, then the person will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Appellant filed suit against the State Election Board contending that the Voter ID Act was unconstitutional as an interference with the free right to suffrage and equivalent to a poll tax. The Oklahoma County District Court held a hearing on competing motions for summary judgment and determined: venue was proper in Oklahoma County, there was no evidence of any voter fraud in Oklahoma, and there was a question of fact regarding the impact of the Voter ID Act on the right to suffrage which would be determined in an evidentiary hearing. In October 2016, the district court found that Appellant had not met her burden of proof and that based on the evidence presented, the Voter ID Act did not violate the Oklahoma Constitution, and entered judgment for the State Election Board on all claims in the case. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gentges v. Oklahoma Election Bd." on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition No. 415, State Question No. 793, proposed to amend Article 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Section 3. The purpose of the amendment was to merge the rights and restrictions placed on optometrists and opticians, while eliminating restraints on the ability to practice their professions in retail mercantile establishments. A protest was filed contesting the validity of the initiative petition as unconstitutional logrolling in violation of the general subject requirement mandated in Okla. Const. art. 24, sec. 1. The sole issue presented for consideration, restated, was whether Initiative Petition No. 415, State Question No. 793, satisfied the single subject requirement of article 24, section 1, of the Oklahoma Constitution. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that the proposed amendment embraced one general subject and therefore complied with article 24, section 1, of the Oklahoma Constitution. View "Oklahoma Assoc. of Optometric Physicians v. Raper" on Justia Law

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On January 27, 2016, the proponents of Initiative Petition No. 404, State Question 780 and Initiative Petition No. 405, State Question 781 (collectively Petitioners), filed both petitions and their ballot titles with the Secretary of State. The Petitioners assert both rewritten ballot titles misrepresent the effect of the measures and are contrary to Oklahoma law. Initiative 404 sought to amend statutes to reform criminal sentences for certain property and drug offenses, making certain ones misdemeanors, such as simple drug possession. Initiative 405 sought to create the "County Community Safety Investment Fund," taking costs saved by reclassifying misdemeanors and redistributing them to the counties to fund rehabilitative programs. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the proposed and rewritten ballot titles deficient, and rewrote the ballot titles pursuant to 34 O.S. Supp. 2015, 10. View "Steele v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Respondents-Proponents Shawn Sheehan, Linda Reid, and Melvin Moran filed Initiative Petition No. 403 (State Question No. 779), with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. The petition sought to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Article 13-C, creating the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund. Funds generated by the one-cent tax would be distributed to public school districts, higher education institutions, career and technology centers, and early childhood education providers for certain educational purposes outlined in the proposed article. Petitioners filed suit to challenge the gist of the measure post-circulation and the sufficiency of the Attorney General's rewritten ballot title. After review of the matter, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held the time for challenging the gist of a measure had expired, and found that the Attorney General's rewritten ballot title was deficient. "We agree that the ballot title is misleading if it does not mention the Board of Equalization's role in limiting appropriations. In addition, the ballot title should refrain from partiality and should clarify the amount of the sales and use tax as well as its allocation." Pursuant to 34 O.S. Supp. 2015, sec. 10 (A)6 , the Court corrected and amended the ballot title. View "OCPA Impact, Inc v. Sheehan" on Justia Law