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 that must be collected is tied to the total votes cast for the office receiving the most votes in the state's most recent general election. Signatures are presumed valid unless challenged.

Year Amendment Statute Veto referendum
2010 219,400 117,013 73,134

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 reforms

Main article: 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

Initiative and Referendum Law

External links


  1. Ballot Access News, "10th Circuit Refuses to Rehear Case on Out-of-State Circulators", January 21, 2009
  2. Associated Press, "State won't appeal initiative petition ruling", January 21, 2009
  3. Ballot Access Comparison Chart
  4. Several Oklahoma bills aim to open up initiative process