A recreational legalization initiative in Oklahoma may be in jeopardy of not making it to the state ballot this November, despite organizers gathering more than enough signatures 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.
But according to the 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. For all practical purposes, that means the process must be completed by Friday, the state election board told Gov. Kevin Stitt in a letter dated June 22. It said the statutory deadline is Aug. 29 and is in place because the Election Board has to have time to print and mail absentee ballots to overseas voters like those in the military. 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.
Activists in those states, citing reams of polling, contend that cannabis legalization is veering on a bipartisan consensus in the country, with conservative and liberal voters alike increasingly backing the policy.
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.”
Tilley and senior campaign adviser Ryan Kiesel sang a similar tune last month, after turning in the signatures to the 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.
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