Diary

The Year of Reform?

This year has brought good news for freedom and democracy in Oklahoma.

Last month, the state’s attorney general, Drew Edmondson, dropped his appeal of a federal court decision, which had overturned part of Oklahoma’s petition law. The AG also dismissed all charges against the Oklahoma Three — Rick Carpenter, Susan Johnson and me.

Hopefully, with the end of this politically motivated prosecution, the chilling effect it has had on Oklahomans who want to petition government will quickly dissipate.

But still, as State Senator Randy Brogdon points out, Oklahoma’s petition process remains “the most onerous . . . in the nation.” That’s the bad news.

The good news? Senator Brogdon and State Representative Randy Terrill aim to change all that. They’ve introduced legislation to “tear down many of the roadblocks that currently prevent the people from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

There’s a constitutional amendment to lower the signature requirements on petitions, now the highest percentage in the nation. A separate statute would give citizens a year to collect signatures, rather than the short 90-day window currently required. That statute would also clean up the process to prevent petitions from being thrown out arbitrarily.

Only three out of 24 initiative petitions this decade have made the Sooner State’s ballot. “Perhaps relief is on the way,” wrote The Oklahoman newspaper. Brogdon says, “2009 could be the year for reform.”

Now is exactly the right time.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.