Oklahoma State Question No. 737 (2008)
The Oklahoma State Question No. 737 or Civil Rights Initiative would prohibit the state of Oklahoma from discrimining or giving preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
This measure has been withdrawn from consideration, following a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union. Supporters acknowledged that the verification rate for the signatures they turned in would have to be unrealistically high in orsder to make the ballot.
The proposed ballot wording was:
The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.
The measures is being sponsored by Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative. It is also being supported as part of a national effort by the American Civil Rights Initiative, a group founded and chaired by Ward Connerly. Connerly rose to prominence when he spearheaded a similar effort in California in 1996, Proposition 209.
Similar measures are being sponsored by the American Civil Rights Initiative in several other states for the 2008 ballot, including Colorado, Missouri, Arizona and Nebraska. The combined effort is known as Super Tuesday for Equal Rights.
In early October, an organized petition blocking campaign to prevent circulators from successfully collecting signatures was initiated. The "Decline to Sign Coalition" is led by Oklahoma City representative Mike Shelton. Shelton has also proposed legislation in the Oklahoma legislature that would make it illegal to pay circulators on a per-signature basis.
Proponents of the ballot measure argue that the "Decline to Sign" movement is similar to the ultimately unsuccessful efforts in Michigan in 2006 to prevent the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative from reaching the ballot.
Petition blocking and harassment campaign
On November 14, an incident of an individual working the prevent the collection of signatures on the Oklahoma Civil Rights initiative was captured and posted on YouTube.
Lawsuit challenges petition validity
Ten Oklahoma voters, including State Reps. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and Jabbar Shumate of Tulsa, filed a lawsuit in early March 2008 with the state Supreme Court challenging the validity the petition.
They argue the petition is an attempt to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs. Chuck Norton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, charges that the signature-gathering process was riddled with errors.
Validity of the signatures was challenged by the American Cicil Liberties Union, and on April 4, 2008, lawyers for the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative filed a motion with the Oklahoma Supreme Court to withdraw the measure from consideration.
The motion to withdraw said that the validity rate of signatures would have to be unrealistically high in order to qualify for the ballot. The backers "do not want to waste this Court's efforts nor taxpayer money on pursuing State Question 737 when (the backers) are reasonably certain that it will fail to garner the requisite number of signatures."
Similar initiatives in other states
- Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (2008)
- Arizona Civil Rights Initiative (2008)
- Colorado Civil Rights Initiative (2008)
- Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative (2008)
- Oklahoma 2008 ballot measures
- Campaign finance requirements for Oklahoma ballot measures
- Oklahoma Initiative and Referendum Law
- Oklahoma signature requirements
- Petition drive deadlines in 2008
- NewsOK.com: "Affirmative action targeted," September 27, 2007
- Chronicle of Higher Education: 4 States Are New Targets for Bans on Affirmative-Action Preferences," April 23, 2007
- A Leg Up for Minorities on Campus Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 2007.
- Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative web site
- American Civil Rights Initiative web site
- Race Blind: blog on "Super Tuesday" civil rights initiatives
- Adversity.Net: Oklahoma-specific
- Super Tuesday 2008: web site promoting 2008 ballot initiatives supported by Ward Connerly
- Group urges voters not to sign what they call misleading petition
- politicos trying to kill the Oklahoma ballot initiative process?
- Decline to Sign: Same Playbook
- YouTube video of Opposition member harassing and intimidating a Civil Rights Initiative circulator
- KTEN-TV: "Supreme Court suit hits petition," March 7, 2008
- How long will it be before they go to jail, Drew?
- Tulsa World: "Affirmative action foes file," Dec. 11, 2007
- Tulsa World: "Backers say they don't have enough valid signatures to get the proposal on a ballot," April 5, 2008