Oklahoma Stop Overspending Initiative (2006)
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The Oklahoma Stop Overspending initiative, had it qualified for the November 2006 ballot and been approved by the voters, would have added a Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution.
The Stop Over Spending initiative that would limit state spending growth to the rate of inflation plus population growth each year. The language in the petition is very similar to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR measures.
Oklahomans In Action is a group that was formed during the 2005-2006 election cycle in Oklahoma. The group was dedicated to spending cap and property rights initiatives. Oklahomans in Action conducted a paid and volunteer petition drive in a 90-day period ending in December 2005 to qualify a Stop Over Spending and Protect Our Homes measures for the November 2006 ballot.
The group was directed by Pat Highland, but other community leaders included Paul Jacob, Rick Carpenter and a petition drive management company National Voter Outreach (NVO), which was directed by Susan Johnson. The organization partnered with Americans for Limited Government during their 2005-2006 campaign.
It was widely reported that there was a choreographed blocking effort for the Stop Overspending Campaign. A blog called Block the Vote and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) wrote about the scare tactics employed to dissuade petitioners from getting signatures. These actions were arranged in a toolkit and released to the public. It ranged from calling mall security called on petitioners to posting look-outs throughout the city.
Some of the tactics, which are noted in the affidavits ranged from accusing petitioners of identity theft, saying that TABOR would cost the city jobs, or even scribbling out entire pages of the petitioners. Blockers even admitted to petitioners that they were being paid $100 a day by the opposition. Some sought to falsely sign the petition in order to make it fraudulent while other reported fictitious accusations to local merchants and authorities. All of the above behavior is against Oklahoma's initiative law.
The opposition committee ran by the Oklahoma Center for Consumer and Patient Safety, Stop SQ 726, announced in a press release that they believed some of the petitions signatures were fraudulent. Attorney General Drew Edmondson, responded to multiple arrests of out-of-state petition circulators, released a statement last week publicizing the fact that it is unlawful for non-residents of Oklahoma to circulate petitions to change state law or amend the state constitution.
The Stop Over Spending Initiative was approved by the Secretary of State, Susan Savage, but a private lawsuit was filed claiming that signatures for the petition were invalid due to non-residency of some of the petitioners. Oklahoma does not allow non-residents to petition. All the signatures collected by those deemed as non-residents were thrown off the ballot, forcing the number of signatures “legally” collected to be insufficient.
- In Oklahoma, a resident is anyone registered to vote and has an address. There are no time requirements stated in law.
- The word ‘reside’ as used to specify the qualifications for electors to be entitled to vote in Oklahoma, means to be in residence, one’s pace of abode, as distinguished from a place where on is employed or an office…Any person who will become a qualified elector during the 60 days before the next ensuing election at which he could vote shall be entitled to become a registered voter of the precinct of his or he residence not more than 60 and not less than 24 days prior to said election.” Those who moved to Oklahoma during the drive could legally become voters if they moved 24 days before the actual election.
The Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph M. Watt ruled in the lawsuit that any statements or indications by any of the petitioners or petition drive management companies that they had any intention of staying in Oklahoma after the petition drive was over were manifestly false.
One of the key witnesses questioned by the grand jury was Rob Colby. Colby admitted that he never had any intention of staying in the state. He also testified in Montana that resulted in all the ballots that were involved with National Voter Outreach being thrown out. Ironically, in the Montana deposition he used his Oklahoma address that he was not "residing" in Oklahoma. Colby even confessed that the entire reason that he agreed to testify was because disagreement about pay from the NVO. Based on Colby testimony however, Judge Watt threw out all signatures who had recently moved there. This included 2,700 collected by James Sweeney, who still lives there 10 months later. This ruling made Stop Over Spending short by about 1,500 signatures and it was thrown off the ballot.
What's happening now
NVO brings lawsuit
On May 3, 2007, Susan Johnson filed a federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's law that prohibits out-of-state residents from circulating petitions in the state. Johnson filed in federal court in Oklahoma City against Gov. Brad Henry, Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Secretary of State Susan Savage.
Yes on Term Limits challenges residency rule
The issue of residency requirements for petitions was also brought up by a group called Yes on Term Limits. A federal lawsuit filed in August 2007 by Oklahoma Yes on Term Limits against Susan Savage, the Oklahoma Secretary of State. The plaintiffs alleged that the part of Oklahoma's I&R law requiring that petition circulators be residents of Oklahoma was an unconstitutional infringement of the first amendment rights of the initiative proponents and of initiative circulators.
Judge Tim Leonard disagreed, ruling against the plaintiffs on September 7, 2007.
Paul Jacob and others indicted
On October 2, 2007 Attorney General Drew Edmondson indicted Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter for allowing out-of-state petitioners to petition during the Stop Over Spending campaign. After all pleaded "not guilty" to the charges, they were handcuffed and shackled before being removed from court. As Paul Jacob was led away for booking, he protested saying "Is this what happens when people petition their government? Is this America? What is going on? This is an attack on our right to petition our government."
Some Oklahoma citizens report being upset at the inconsistent application of residency laws during petition drives. While Attorney General Drew Edmundson allowed for out-of-state circulators to defeat cockfighting but is brining an indictment against the Oklahoma 3 for out-of-state circulators.
- Stop Over Spending Oklahoma
- Block the Vote
- SQ 726 Toolkit
- Totalitarian Impulse, Common Sense by Paul Jacob
- Oklahoma Affidavit
- SQ 726 Press Release
- OK Arrest records
- Oklahoma Affidavit
- The Ruling
- Oklahoma Supreme Court throws out Taxpayer Bill of Rights petition, Journal Record
- Oklahoma TABOR circulator admits lying, Journal Record Legislative Report, June 30, 2006
- Oklahoma grand jury continues probe into TABOR drive, Journal Record
- Ballot Access News
- Paul Jacob Indictment
- Petition backers indicted on felony charges, NewsOK, October 2, 2007
- Okie Campaigns blog
- Initiative fairness, Muskogee Phoenix, Oct. 17, 2007