Election day is Tuesday, November 8. In addition to casting a vote for the highest office in the land, Oklahomans will be deciding a US Senate seat, four US House seats, and yes or no on seven state questions. The seven questions are briefly outlined below. Over the next four weeks, we will be posting more in-depth reviews of each of the state questions on our blog and, when relevant, we?ll include results and recommendations from our past Town Halls. Another great resource for preparing for 11/8 is the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide.
November 2016 Ballot Measures
State Question 767 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment dealing with the death penalty. The amendment would declare all methods of execution be allowed, unless prohibited by the US constitution, and designated statutorily by the legislature. Additionally, the amendment would prohibit the death penalty being defined as a cruel or unusual punishment.
State Question 777 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would add a new section of law to the state constitution to provide protection to farmers and ranchers in farming and ranching practices. Additionally this amendment would prohibit the legislature from passing laws that would take away the right to employ agricultural technology and animal production rights without a compelling state interest.
State Question 779 is an initiated constitutional amendment that would increase the sales tax by one percent to raise a projected $615 million per year for education. That amount would be used for teacher raises, higher education, grants, early childhood education and vocational education.
State Question 780 is an initiated state statute and would reduce certain non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Non-violent drug and theft related crimes would come with a maximum one-year imprisonment and fine of $1000, which would reduce the number and length of state prison sentences for such crimes resulting in a cost savings.
State Question 781 is an initiated state statute and would allocate money saved in reduced prison costs from the reclassification of some nonviolent crimes to fund rehabilitative programs. SQ 781 is dependent upon passage of SQ 780.
State Question 790 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would repeal a section of the Oklahoma constitution prohibiting the spending of public money for religious purposes.
State Question 792 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine seven days a week.
The Initiative and Referendum Processes in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is one of the twenty-six states that offer initiative and referendum rights to their citizens. The Initiative and Referendum processes for filing a state question are found in Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution and Title 34 of the Oklahoma statutes.
There are three types of state questions that can be filed on an Oklahoma ballot: Initiative Petition, Legislative Referendum, and Referendum Petition. A legislative referendum occurs when the legislature refers a measure to the voters for their approval. These measures can either amend a state?s constitution or enact a change in a state statute. An initiative petition is the means by which citizens can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or a constitutional amendment. A referendum petition is the means by which citizens can bring about a public vote on laws previously approved by legislative bodies. Both initiative and referendum petitions requires proponents to gather a certain number of signatures from registered voters in order for the initiative or referendum to be placed on the ballot.
The required number of signatures is determined by the total number of votes cast at the last general election for the Office of Governor. Currently in Oklahoma, for a statute initiative 65, 587 signatures, or 8% of votes cast in the last general election, are required; 123,725 signatures (15%) for a constitutional amendment initiative; 41,242 signatures (5%) for a referendum. In Oklahoma, initiative proponents have 90 days to submit signatures. There is usually a period of time between determining the eligibility of the ballot and the printing of the ballots. This is often the time when political opponents of the initiative sue the Secretary of State to demand the question not be on the ballot.
Maybe you?d like to know?
Oklahoma put forward its first initiative, The Oklahoma Sale of Public Lands Initiative, in 1908. The initiative, which was defeated, would have authorized the sale of schools and public lands at auction. The first successful citizen initiative, Oklahoma Initiative 7, defied the single-subject rule by proposing two questions: 1) Shall a permanent capitol be established and 2) Shall it be in Guthrie, Oklahoma City, or Shawnee? Voters chose Oklahoma City by a wide margin.
Between 1908 and 2012, 390 initiatives have been proposed. Of those 390, only 86 made it to the ballot, 39 of which have passed and 47 have failed. From 1992-2014, only eight citizen-sponsored initiatives have made it onto Oklahoma?s ballot.