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Laws governing the initiative process in Oklahoma

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Basic Procedures

In order to file an initiative in Oklahoma, take your initiative petition in final camera-ready artwork form to the Secretary of State. Once the initiative is filed with the Secretary of State, you can begin to collect signatures.

Note: the legislature or the Governor can order an initiative to appear on a special election ballot.

Oklahoma is the only state that requires the name of the petition signer to be on the back of the petition.

Features of the law


The initiative can be submitted for the November general election at any time. However, the Secretary of State recommends submitting them 8 months prior to the election. This is because the state has a provision that the ballot title set by the Secretary of State can be challenged. If a ballot title is challenged, the state supreme court reviews the challenge. Since there is no statutory requirement to rule on the challenge, there have been instances where courts have taken over a year to make a ruling. However, the absolute latest deadline for submitting signatures is 60 days prior to the election (primary or general).

Circulation period

Each individual petition has its own deadline. Once the petition drive has commenced, the signatures must be collected and turned in to the government within ninety days of the day the first signature was collected.

Number of signatures

Main article: Oklahoma signature requirements

The number of signatures required to qualify initiatives for the ballot in Oklahoma is tied to the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election. Amendments, statutes, and veto referendums must receive signatures equaling 15 percent, 8 percent, and 5 percent of the number of votes cast for governor, respectively. Previously rejected measures required 25 percent of this number in order to be placed on the ballot again within three years. Signatures are presumed valid unless challenged.

The basis of the Oklahoma signature requirement used to be the votes cast for the office receiving the most votes in the state's last general election. Due to higher turnout for presidential elections, the signature requirement varied widely every fourth year. In 2010, voters passed Oklahoma State Question 750, amending the requirement.

Year Amendment Statute Veto referendum
2016 123,725 65,987 41,242
2014 155,216 82,782 51,739
2012 155,216 82,782 51,739
2010 219,400 117,013 73,134
2008 138,970 74,117 46,324
1994 208,554 111,229 -
1992 175,656 93,683 -
1990 175,656 - -
1989 136,489 - -

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Oklahoma Constitution, Article V, Section 2 & Section 6

Distribution requirement

Oklahoma does not have a distribution requirement.

Residency of circulators

Main article: Residency requirements for petition circulators

In 1969, Oklahoma passed a law saying that petition circulators must be residents of the state. In October 2007, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson launched a criminal prosecution of Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson and Rick Carpenter for allegedly violating the state's residency requirement in a 2005 petition drive to put the Stop Overspending initiative on the state's ballot.

The residency requirement was, at the time of Edmondson's indictment, being challenged in federal court in the case of Yes on Term Limits v. Savage as unconstitutional. On December 18, 2008, the Tenth Circuit unanimously invalidated Oklahoma's residency law on the grounds of unconstitutionality.[1]

After the US Supreme Court denied the state's appeal in the case Edmondson, on January 22, 2009, announced both that the residency requirement is no longer "legally enforceable" and that he was dropping his prosecution of the Oklahoma 3.[2] Thirteen other Attorneys General filed briefs asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

See also: Oklahomans for Modern Alcoholic Beverage Controls v. Shelton.

Single-subject rule

Oklahoma has a single-subject rule.

Size of petition

Current law requires that petition sheets be 14 inches long. {Oklahoma Senate Bill 852, 2009 proposes to change this requirement.)

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

The Oklahoma State Legislature can both repeal and amend initiated state statutes, according to a court ruling.

Oklahoma's ballot access rating

In June of 2007, Ballot Access News gave Oklahoma the lowest rating for its ballot access rules for putting the names of minor political parties on the ballot, due to its having the largest (3 percent) requirement of signatures needed to place a party on the ballot.[3]

Proposed changes


Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Oklahoma State Legislature include:


Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Oklahoma Legislature:


Changes in 2009 to laws governing the initiative process
  • Oklahoma Senate Joint Resolution 13, 2009, a constitutional amendment, has passed both houses and will be voted on by the people of Oklahoma. The amendment will tie the number of required signatures to the vote for governor, instead of for president in presidential election years.

SJR 13 and SB 852 are both sponsored by Randy Brogdon.

Campaign finance

Main article: Campaign finance requirements for Oklahoma ballot measures

Some of the features of Oklahoma's campaign finance laws are:

  • Ballot measure groups are called Political Action Committees in which they are treated the same as PAC's.
  • Oklahoma bans contributions made from one PAC to the other.
  • All campaign expenditures cannot exceed the fair market value regardless for which good or service was sold.
  • Oklahoma allows corporations and labor unions to donate to PAC's registered in support or opposition of a referendum.
  • Oklahoma requires 24 hour reporting for paid advertisements over $5,000.
  • Oklahoma requires 24 hour reporting for all campaign contributions over $500 in the last fourteen (14) days before an election.

Initiative and Referendum Law

External links