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Oklahoma Legislation Appears To Fall Short of Ballot

Oklahoma’s recreational legalization proposal could not make it onto the state ballot in November. Despite organizers collecting more signatures than necessary to qualify,

The leaders of the “Yes On 820 Campaign” said on Monday that the Oklahoma secretary of state confirmed that the group had submitted more than 117,000 valid signatures –– well above the roughly 95,000 signature threshold for a question to be placed on the state ballot.

According to Oklahoma Watch, the group “faces several obstacles in the last part of its journey to the ballot as another challenge period will last at least 10 business days and the state Election Board needs time to print ballots for overseas voters.”

 “The certification by the secretary of state now goes to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which must determine if the signature verification meets the sufficiency requirements. That then starts a 10-day process for anyone to challenge the signature verification,” the Oklahoma Watch reported.

The “Yes on 820 Campaign,” which submitted more than 164,000 signatures to the Oklahoma secretary of state’s office last month, celebrated the validation of the signatures on Monday, but expressed concern that the question will not be in front of the state’s voters come November.

Complicating matters, according to the campaign, is the fact that the Oklahoma secretary of state’s office is using a private vendor in the ballot certification process for the first time.

“The last petition Oklahomans voted on took 17 days to count 313,000 signatures,” Michelle Tilley, the campaign director for “Yes on 820,” said in a statement, as quoted by the Oklahoma Watch. “In contrast, we submitted half that amount and it has taken three times as long. This delay means the election board may not receive the green light to print the ballot in time for voters to vote on it in November.”  

The Oklahoma Watch has more on the bureaucratic minutiae: “The governor has the sole authority to call the election for ballot initiatives once the challenge period expires. The state election board informed Gov. that the process should be complete by Friday for all practical purposes. Kevin Stitt, in a June 22 letter. The letter stated that the Aug. 29 deadline was in effect because the Election Board must have enough time to mail absentee votes to voters overseas like military personnel. In a filing with the Supreme Court, the Yes on 820 campaign said the state’s new signature verification system, run by Western Petition Systems, took longer than anyone anticipated.”

State Question 820 would “safely regulate, and tax recreational marijuana for adults 21+ in Oklahoma,” which the campaign asserts “will generate revenue for important priorities for Oklahomans, including schools, health care, and local governments.”

Oklahoma is one of several traditional “red states” where voters could have the chance to end the prohibition on pot this November, with legalization proposals already qualifying for the ballot in Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

According to activists from these states and citing extensive polling, legalization of marijuana is being viewed as a bipartisan policy with liberal and conservative voters supporting it.

After getting word from the secretary of state’s office, the Yes on 820 campaign said Monday that the “overwhelming number of signatures shows that Oklahomans are ready for sensible marijuana laws.”

Ryan Kiesel (senior campaign adviser) and Tilley sang the same song after turning in signatures to Secretary of State.

“We’re expecting Oklahomans to say yes to this,” Kissel said at the time.

“Oklahomans don’t think that people should be continually punished for something that’s no longer a crime,” he added.