Oklahoma Supreme Court prevents Initiative Petition 420 from advancing

supreme ct photo

The Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated Initiative Petition 420 in a 7-2 decision  that the petition's gist was inadequate.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated Initiative Petition 420 on Tuesday.

Initiative Petition 420 would reform Oklahoma’s legislative redistricting process by establishing an independent commission responsible for redrawing legislative district boundaries. Currently, the legislators themselves are responsible for this process.

While the petition was invalidated as written, proponents of the measure will have the opportunity to change the gist and file the measure as a new petition initiative.

Andy Moore, executive director of People not Politicians, said the petition has already been revised and is ready to file again.

“We were going to refile today, but the secretary of State’s office is closed, so we will be there tomorrow,” Moore said Wednesday.

House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) issued a statement Tuesday in response to the ruling.

“This proposal has been misleading and overly-complicated from day one, and we are pleased the court recognized that by striking it down,” McCall said. “We are continuing to move forward with the House’s proven redistricting process that involves the entire state, strictly adheres to the law and won bipartisan praise when last used a decade ago.”

Oral arguments regarding the petition took place in a single day, but the court considered two cases challenging the proposal.

The first (case number 118405) questioned the measure’s legality in regards to the First Amendment and Oklahoma’s single subject rule. In this case, the court determined in an 8-0 decision the petition did not violate the state’s single subject rule and declined to rule on any potential First Amendment violations.

“That’s good news,” Moore said. “I think that signifies that the court recognizes that this is a valid, reasonable petition.”

The ruling in the second case (case number 118406) struck the petition from the ballot. This case focused on the adequacy of the petition’s gist.

The gist of a petition is the summary text at the top of the signature page, meant to ensure voters are informed about petitions they may be asked to sign. The court ruled 7-2 against the gist as it was written and ultimately released four opinions detailing why the gist was inadequate.

To complicate matters, formatting requirements for Oklahoma initiative petitions leaves a limited amount of space in which to write a petition’s gist. Moore said summarizing the lengthy petition in the space provided for the gist was challenging.

“We looked at the court’s guidance on that and tried to do our best to include all the aspects that they felt we needed to include and just try to explain the process a little bit better,” Moore said. “I feel like we have done a really excellent job of fulfilling everything the court has asked and addressing the concerns from the opposition as well.”

Once the petition has been filed again, opponents of the measure will have another opportunity to challenge its legality.

“The politicians’ goal is to try to keep us off of the ballot this year, and so they’re going to do everything they can to try to make that happen,” Moore said. “We are confident that we can get there, the only thing that stands in our way is the politicians who are trying to keep their power to gerrymander one more time.”

news.ed@ocolly.com