Your Initiative

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Initiative Petitions in Oklahoma

(Direct Democracy)

  • What is direct democracy? In general, the term "direct democracy" usually refers to citizens making policy and law decisions in person, without going through representatives and legislatures. Laws are typically drafted and approved by the two branches of the Oklahoma legislature and then signed into law by the Governor. However, Oklahoma and many (but not all) other states allows individual citizens themselves to draft proposed changes to the law that with enough support through petition signature can be put to a popular vote. These changes to the law can include modifying an existing law, repealing a statute, creating a new law, or amending the Oklahoma Constitution.
  • Five Types of Direct Democracy.
    • Referral. A referral is where the legislature places a proposed law on the ballot for popular vote to determine whether the it becomes law. Referrals by the legislature to the people for vote is utilized by every state except Delaware.
    • Statute Law Initiative. The Initiative is a citizen-initiated process where a person can draft a proposed statute and circulate a petition to obtain signatures in order to put the proposal on a ballot for a popular vote. Twenty-one (21) states including Oklahoma allow initiative petitions to create and modify state statutes. Oklahoma law specifically prescribes the rules that must be followed through this process.
    • Statute Referendum. The Referendum is citizen-initiated, petition process of a proposed veto of an existing law, which, if successful, repeals the standing law. The Referendum is available in Oklahoma and twenty-three (23) other states.
    • Constitutional Amendment. Oklahoma is one of only eighteen (18) states that allows constitutional amendments through initiative petition.
    • Recall. A Recall is a citizen-initiated, petition process, which, if successful, removes an elected official from office by "recalling" the official's election. The Recall is the only type of direct democracy which is not available in Oklahoma.

Monumental Direct Democracy Measures in Oklahoma's History

  • State Capital Location. The State of Oklahoma's first successful initial petition (Oklahoma Initiative 7) was in 1910. The first part of the initiative asked whether the State should build a permanent capital and the second part asked whether it should be in Guthrie, Oklahoma City, or Shawnee. The people by popular vote decided to build Oklahoma's capital in Oklahoma City; however, the Oklahoma Supreme Court later invalidated the initiative for violation of the single-subject rule. Nonetheless the capital was still built in Oklahoma City.
  • Right to Work. The Oklahoma legislature by referral placed the issue of Right to Work on the ballot in 2001. State Question 695 as it was designated passed with 54.2%.
  • Cock Fighting. Petition 365 appeared on the ballot in 2002 as Oklahoma State Question 687, received a majority (56%/44%) of the popular vote and outlawed cockfighting in Oklahoma.
  • Defense of Marriage Amendment. Oklahoma State Question 711 was a legislatively referred proposal to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to add a ban of same-sex marriage. The measure was approved by 75.6% of the vote.

Statutory Authority for Initiative Petition in Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma Constitution Article VI':'
    • Article 5, Section 1 - Legislature - Authority and composition - Powers reserved to people.

>> The Legislative authority of the State shall be vested in a Legislature, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives; but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the Constitution and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the Legislature, and also reserve power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any act of the Legislature.

    • Article 5, Section 2 - Designation and definition of reserved powers - Determination of percentages.

>> The first power reserved by the people is the initiative, and eight per centum of the legal voters shall have the right to propose any legislative measure, and fifteen per centum of the legal voters shall have the right to propose amendments to the Constitution by petition, and every such petition shall include the full text of the measure so proposed. The second power is the referendum, and it may be ordered (except as to laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety), either by petition signed by five per centum of the legal voters or by the Legislature as other bills are enacted. The ratio and per centum of legal voters hereinbefore stated shall be based upon the total number of votes cast at the last general election for the State office receiving the highest number of votes at such election.

    • Article 5, Section 3 - Petitions - Veto power - Elections - Time of taking effect - Style of bills - Duty of legislature.

>> Referendum petitions shall be filed with the Secretary of State not more than ninety (90) days after the final adjournment of the session of the Legislature which passed the bill on which the referendum is demanded. The veto power of the Governor shall not extend to measures voted on by the people. All elections on measures referred to the people of the state shall be had at the next election held throughout the state, except when the Legislature or the Governor shall order a special election for the express purpose of making such reference. Any measure referred to the people by the initiative or referendum shall take effect and be in force when it shall have been approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon and not otherwise. The style of all bills shall be: "Be it Enacted By the People of the State of Oklahoma." Petitions and orders for the initiative and for the referendum shall be filed with the Secretary of State and addressed to the Governor of the state, who shall submit the same to the people. The Legislature shall make suitable provisions for carrying into effect the provisions of this article.

    • Article 5, Section 4 - Referendum against part of act.

>> The referendum may be demanded by the people against one or more items, sections, or parts of any act of the Legislature in the same manner in which such power may be exercised against a complete act. The filing of a referendum petition against one or more items, sections, or parts of an act shall not delay the remainder of such act from becoming operative.

    • Article 5, Section 5 - Reservation of powers to voters of counties and districts - Manner of exercising.

>> The powers of the initiative and referendum reserved to the people by this Constitution for the State at large, are hereby further reserved to the legal voters of every county and district therein, as to all local legislation, or action, in the administration of county and district government in and for their respective counties and districts. The manner of exercising said powers shall be prescribed by general laws, except that Boards of County Commissioners may provide for the time of exercising the initiative and referendum powers as to local legislation in their respective counties and districts. The requisite number of petitioners for the invocation of the initiative and referendum in counties and districts shall bear twice, or double, the ratio to the whole number of legal voters in such county or district, as herein provided therefor in the State at large.

    • Article 5, Section 6 -
    • Article 5, Section 7 -
    • Article 5, Section 8 -
  • Oklahoma Statutes Title 34 - Initiative and Referendum

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