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Criminal justice reform supporters challenge ballot title rewrite

Aug 3, 2016 | by Lynn Powell

Just another way the state is trying to stop reform. We must get out the vote and get these SQ passed. Why are our state leaders so happy to keep us #1 in incarceration and last in education ?

OKLAHOMA CITY — Supporters of two criminal justice reform measures are asking the state’s high court to reject the ballot title wording offered by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.


Supporters gathered enough signatures to get the two measures on the Nov. 8 ballot.


On June 2, the signatures were submitted to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office.


As required by law, the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office submitted the proposed ballot titles to Pruitt’s office for review.


Pruitt’s office filed notice June 9 that it disagreed with the ballot title wording provided by supporters. On June 22, Pruitt’s office filed alternative ballot titles.


State Question 780 would reclassify certain low-level offenses, such as drug possession and some property offenses of less than $1,000, as misdemeanors instead of felonies.


If approved by voters, supporters say State Question 780 would generate cost savings for the state by reducing the growing prison population.


Petitioners allege Pruitt’s revised ballot title includes emotionally charged examples selected to evoke fearful images in the title. They also allege Pruitt’s rewritten ballot title uses examples that are unrepresentative, contain emotionally charged terms and deliberately calculated to elicit opposition to the measure.


State Question 781 would invest the cost savings into rehabilitation programs to treat substances addiction and mental-health conditions.


Pruitt’s proposed language improperly expresses skepticism regarding the merits or likelihood of success by stating that the measure presumes it will save the state money, the petitioners allege.


The changed language is the equivalent of an argument against the proposal, they allege.


The measures were championed by former House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee.


The ballot titles, which explain the proposals, prepared by Pruitt’s office “are clearly deficient in several ways: their descriptions of the propositions by way of selective, unrepresentative, and emotionally charged examples are misleading; they contain improper argument; their language and composition express partiality against the measures; and they exceed the (200) statutory word limit,” according to court documents.


Supporters are asking that their substitute ballot title be adopted or that the court rewrite the ballot title.


According to Pruitt’s office, the revised titles “explain the effects of the initiative petitions in a clear and objective way.”


Pruitt’s office asked the court to reject the challenge to the adequacy of the ballot title.

By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau