Articles Posted in Election 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

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At issue before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was a challenge to the legal sufficiency of Initiative Petition No. 409. Respondents-proponents Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma and Bryan Kerr filed Initiative Petition No. 409 with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, seeking to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by repealing Article 28 and adopting Article 28A. Article 28A as proposed, would have allowed wine to be sold in grocery stores. Also under the proposed article, retail package stores could sell any and all items that were sold in convenience stores and grocery stores. Small brewers could sell their products at a brewery or festival or trade show and could sell alcoholic beverages by the drink at a restaurant co-located on the premises of the brewery. Petitioners-opponents Oklahoma Grocers Association and Ron Edgmon filed an Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction with the Supreme Court to protest: (1) the constitutionality of the petition; and (2) the statutory sufficiency of the gist of the petition. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the gist of the petition did not fairly describe the proposed constitutional amendment and was invalid. View "In re Initiative Petition No. 409, State Question No. 785" on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition No. 403 sought to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Article 13-C. The proposed article would create the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund, designed to provide for the improvement of public education in Oklahoma through an additional one-cent sales and use tax. 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. Additionally, a percentage of the funds would be used to provide a $5,000.00 pay raise to all public school teachers. Opponents challenged the initiative, arguing it violated the one general subject rule of Art. 24, sec. 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Initiative Petition No. 403 did not violate the one general subject rule and was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "IN RE INITIATIVE PETITION NO. 403 STATE QUESTION NO. 779" on Justia Law

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On Sept. 18, 2013, Initiative Petition No. 397, State Question 767 was filed with Secretary of State. The Initiative Petition proposes amendments to the State Constitution with an ultimate primary purpose of constructing storm shelters for schools. Proponents also filed with the Secretary of State a proposed ballot title for their proposed Initiative. The Oklahoma Attorney General disagreed with Proponents' ballot title and then prepared and filed with the Secretary of State a new ballot title for the Initiative. The Proponents disagreed with the Attorney General's version and appealed to the Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court held that: (1) a proponent of an initiative petition must file or submit a copy of the initiative petition and a copy of the ballot title to the Attorney General when the proponent files the initiative petition and ballot title with the Secretary of State; (2) the Attorney General must file a response to a ballot title within five business days from the date the ballot title is filed; (3) the Attorney General's section 9(D) response to a ballot title is statutorily effective although the Attorney General's response was filed two days late; (4) a proponent of an initiative who challenges a ballot title prepared by the Attorney General has the burden to show that the Attorney General's ballot title is legally incorrect, or is not impartial, or fails to accurately reflect the effects of the proposed initiative; (5) the Attorney General's ballot title challenged in this proceeding was legally correct, impartial, and accurately reflected the effects of the proposed initiative; (6) when a ballot title appeal has been made, a proponent's ninety-day period of time to collect signatures commences when the ballot title appeal is final. View "In re: Initiative Petition No. 397, State Question No. 767" on Justia Law

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Registered Voter Delilah Gentges sued the Oklahoma State Election Board in the district court of Tulsa County to prevent implementation of SB 692, commonly known as the Voter ID Act. Gentges alleged she had standing as a taxpayer and as a registered voter in Tulsa County. The State Election Board specially appeared in the district court of Tulsa County and asked the court to dismiss this suit. The State Election Board contended Gentges lacked standing and Tulsa County was not the proper venue for a suit against a State agency. The district court of Tulsa County rejected these challenges and the State Election Board asked the Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction to prohibit the district court of Tulsa County from proceeding further. The Supreme Court granted partial relief by ordering the district court of Tulsa County to transfer the case to the district court of Oklahoma County. Gentges contended the Legislature violated the Oklahoma Constitution by submitting the Voter ID Act to a popular vote without first presenting it to the Governor for veto consideration. She also contended that requiring voters to present certain forms of identification in order to vote would "interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage." After review of the parties' summary judgment paperwork, the trial court ruled: (1) the Oklahoma Constitution does not require presentment of a legislative referendum to the Governor before the referendum is placed on the ballot for a vote; and (2) Gentges lacked standing. Gentges appealed. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that the trial court was correct in ruling the Voter ID Act was validly enacted, but reversed the trial court on the issue of Gentges' standing. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Gentges v. Oklahoma State Election Board" on Justia Law

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Senator Jim Wilson filed suit in an attempt to have the State Senate Redistricting Act of 2011 declared invalid after the Supreme Court rejected his attempt to have the Act declared unconstitutional. In an earlier case, the Senator attached the Act as invalid because it "failed to create Senate districts which as nearly as possible preserve[d] the factors of 'compactness, political units, historical precedents, economic and political interests.'" In his petition in this case, he made "verbatim the same allegations as he did in [his earlier case]." Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the district court properly dismissed Senator Wilson's petition because he failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and because his claim was barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion having been adjudicated against him in "Wilson I." The Court affirmed the district court's dismissal. View "Wilson v. Oklahoma ex rel. State Election Board" on Justia Law