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Federal Judge Upholds Oklahoma Ban on Out-of-State Circulators

Published on September 8, 2007, by in General.

On September 7, a U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City upheld Oklahoma’s law, banning out-of-state petition circulators. Yes on Term Limits v Savage, no. 5:07-cv-680. Here is the decision.

The judge, Tim Leonard, seemed to feel that elections officials can’t check the validity of petitions, unless it can interview the circulators. It isn’t clear why a state can’t check signatures on petitions by comparing a signature on the petition, with the same voter’s signature on a voter registration form.

Judge Leonard’s rationale is that out-of-state circulators will leave the state as soon as they are done working on the petition, and if the state needs to interview them about their work, the state won’t be able to find them.

9 Responses

  1. John Doe

    Wisconsin tried this same excuse in Frami v Ponto, but lost. I don’t see why this one should have been to different. An individual has the right to travel and associate with whoever they wish, period. If the signatures are invalid, then so be it; why should the circulator be immediately suspect of fraud?

  2. NATIONALLY, IN GENERAL, THE SO CALLED REFORM MOVEMENT

    To all State party Organization Chair’s:

    It appears with all due respect, that the main interest of the Kennedy faction and to some degree the Rodney Martin faction is to sue each other in Court. When the real issues, are the country is going to hell in a handbasket!! !

    The Kennedy Faction went to Court to prove they were right, a jury, a judge found them to be wrong. We are accomplishing nothing by these continued Court actions except a few people’s egos don’t get deflated. A Convention at a site agreeable to the majority, I believe would be helpful to reunite.

    Websites remain outdated, State and National Issues seem to be ignored, the FEC issue still hangs out and rules seem to be the highlight without flexibility in my humble opinion.

    Hey, do any of you people recall the words of that great President Abe Lincoln towards the end of a long violent Civil war. I believe it was his second inaugrial speech addressing reuniting this Country,

    “With charity towards all and malice towards none”.

    I feel Reformers Nationwide should think about those words. We are not a bunch of high school kids we are all adults, many of us over the hill adults so to speak. Okay, I think you get the jist of what I am saying….

    Here is my big suggestion / question. Do any State Party Chairs have an interest in reuniting / rebuilding Nationwide with charity towards all and malice towards none? If so, contact me by telephone, e – mail or snail mail maybe suggestions would start flowing on how to accomplish just that. If not, I will accept your silence as your answer.

    Please circulate this message as you see fit.

    Respectfully,

    Bill Greenwood – R.I.
    __._,_.___

  3. Andy

    Judge Leonard apparently does not understand the 1st amendment. As Americans we have a right to travel throughout the USA and we do not give up our 1st amendment rights when we cross state lines. This decision is a blatant violation of the 1st amendment and Judge Leonard ought to be removed from office.

  4. This decision brings back into focus the need for a comprehensive reform of the election code in Oklahoma. It also implies, to me at least, the need for a coalition of parties to agree on a model state election code for the nation which is free of the entrenching devices embeded in election laws over the last century of Democratic-Republican control.

    Current laws are designed to enable judges to uphold the status quo. The judges are the products of the entrenchment. Few can or will break ranks. A model election code would be a powerful political tool for all the parties. Surely such an agreement on fundamental election fairness would enhance the stature of all insurgent parties. Free the people to vote for all of us.

  5. The First Amendment is irrelevant here (and in any event I’m not sure what the first amendment has to do with any asserted right to travel). Under our federal system, states have the right to set up their own mechanisms relating to presidential elections and to establish regulations governing the administation within the borders of those elections. A law requiring ballot petition circulators to be residents of a particular state may be unfair, irrational, and perplexing (and I’m certainly not disagreeing that it is all of those things), but I fail to see how it is _per se_ unconstitutional. No constitutional right is absolute; free speech, religion, gun ownership, assembly, and – yes – petitioning the government are all regulated to one degree or another.

    This is simply one more example of why we need a fair, equitable, uniform, federal statute governing ballot access requirements for presidential elections in all 50 states and D.C. This patchwork of lawsuits and rulings around the country is insane.

  6. Robert

    Better to have 50 laws in 50 states and lawsuits around the country than one really bad law with bad legal precedents that can’t be changed by lawsuits because Federal judges won’t overturn a bad ruling.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Although New Jersey’s law isn’t perfect (800 signatures, circulators must be registered in the district they are petitioning in) it is much better than Oklahoma’s because of the low signature count. I don’t want to see new Jersey’s law getting worse so that Oklahoma can have a slightly better law.

  7. Richard

    I think we all agree that it would be absurd to pass a law saying other types of political professionals can’t cross state lines to do their work. Professional media consultants, fund-raisers, advance people, producers of TV and radio ads, are all free to do their work in any state; why pick on professional petitioners? Is it because most political professionals are upper middle-class, whereas professional circulators are working class?

  8. We already have countless uniform federal standards touching on every aspect of life, from communications to animal husbandry to No Child Left Behind. I see no reason why – as Ralph Nader advocates, and with whom I agree – it should be a piece of cake to get on the ballot in New Jersey but just over the river in Pennsylvania the same candidate for the same office should face a virtually insurmountable obstacle in getting on the ballot.

    New Jersey’s law is so lax it’s almost nonexistent. And that’s terrific. But if the downside of uniform ballot access is that NJ becomes “not that difficult” instead of “ridiculously easy,” and places like Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania finally get upgraded to the “not at all difficult” category…..well, that’s not much of a downside from a nationwide organizing perspective.

    What proposals are already out there for uniform ballot access, including petitioning requirements? Let’s examine them. Intense public discussion and evaluation prior to introducing legislation will only improve the process.

    The energy and resources that have been wasted for decades now trying to jump through 51 different hoops on this issue could be better spent on actually campaigning for office and getting ideas out to voters.

  9. Andy

    David, the 1st amendment is most definitely relavent here. States can not violate individual rights and free speech is an individual right. Also, under the 14th amendment the states are suppposed to recognize all rights gaurenteed under the US Constitution. In addition to this, every state constitution that I’ve read has similiar – and in some cases greater – protections of free speech as does the US Constitution.

    The real victims here are the people as a whole as this decision will make it far more difficult to put initiatives, referenda, recalls, and minor party & independent candidates on the ballot, and this means less power for the people and more power for the establishment politicians.

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