Joint resolution to change petition process in Oklahoma passes House

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislatures are making a new push to change state petition law. 

The number of signatures a petition needs is based off the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. 

Right now that number is around 178,000. 

Under the current law, those signatures can come from anywhere in the state, but if House Joint Resolution 1027 passes, petitioners would have to collect a certain number of signatures from each of the state’s five congressional districts. 

“Oklahoma City and Tulsa now have more of a percentage of the population than the rest of the state combined,” Representative John Pfeiffer told News 4.  “So they have enough votes to pass everything on the ballot, which has my people feeling a little bit disenfranchised.”

Rep. Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, is the author of HJR 1027. 

He says his goal is just to make sure voters in rural Oklahoma are represented. 

Opponents of the measure say it would be a major obstacle for getting initiative petitions on a ballot. 

“There are many things that the people have wanted to vote on that the legislature has refused to put in front of them,” Rhonda Mclean with the League of Women voters said.  “Or refused to vote on themselves.”

Mclean with the league of women voters says petitions allow people to take action when lawmakers won’t, but if joint HJR 1027 passes, she believes it will quiet the voice of the people. 

“By restricting what you can get on the initiative petitions, and how you pass them, and what you can ultimately get on the ballot,” Mclean told News 4. “You’re restricting the rights of Oklahoma citizens to choose what they want the law to be.”

Medical marijuana legalization started as an initiative petition (SQ 788), so did Medicaid expansion (SQ 802), something we’ll see on the ballot this year.

Just like those state questions, voters will get the final say on this matter. 

“The thing that’s a little surprising and kind of ironic to me is this itself is an issue that’s going to go to a vote of the people,” Rep. Pfeiffer said.  “If they like the way the current system is that’s fine they can keep it.”

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