Oklahoma Farm Bureau Part of the Coalition Opposing Radical Changes to Redistricting in Oklahoma- Protest Now Before the Supreme CourtMon, 18 Nov 2019 21:00:15 CST
A legal challenge to Initiative Petition 420 has been filed, which seeks to create State Question 804 and establish an "independent commission" to create new legislative districts. According to spokesman Alex Weintz, this is a "proposal to radically change how legislative districts are drawn in Oklahoma is clearly political in nature and driven by liberal activists funded by out-of-state groups." He cites Oklahoma State Senator Greg Treat "This is a redistricting coup, not an attempt at fair maps. This is a power play by out-of-state liberals in an attempt to force an agenda on Oklahomans."
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau has joined the coalition filing the two challenges to the Initiative Petition with the Oklahoma Supreme Court- and Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Rodd Moesel says the delegates at their just concluded state convention passed a resolution stating the general farm organization's opposition to State Question 804. He adds that their Legal Foundation has made a contribution to the legal efforts opposing IP 420.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays talked with Moesel on Monday afternoon about the legal efforts and you can hear their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
According to the legal team that has mounted the constitutional protest- they are attacking IP 420 for failing to comply with the "single subject rule" in Article 24 § 1 of Oklahoma's Constitution. The point of the single subject rule is to avoid "log rolling" in which multiple important subjects are presented together so that voters do not have a meaningful opportunity to vote on each subject separately. IP 420 presents several separate and important subjects:
1. IP 420 seeks to change the redistricting process for both State legislative offices and Federal legislative offices in the same petition. A similar petition was found to violate the single subject rule by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2016.
2. IP 420 would change both who would control the redistricting process and the substantive standards for how redistricting would occur. The Florida Supreme Court found that a similar petition violated the single subject rule in 2006.
3. Another subject presented is that redistricting power would be taken away from the voters' elected representatives and given instead to a body which is neither elected nor otherwise accountable to the voters.
4. IP 420 would also eliminate the voters' right of direct democracy to make redistricting decisions themselves. Since Statehood, the Oklahoma Constitution has recognized the power of voters to make laws themselves. In fact, in 1966, Oklahoma voters disapproved a legislative redistricting plan through a referendum. IP 420, however, would vest the power in an unelected commission and would repeal the ability of the voters to achieve direct democracy on redistricting.
The second set of constitutional challenges arise from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. First Amendment rights include the rights of all Americans to participate in the political process and to associate for political purposes. IP 420 provides that an Oklahoman cannot serve on the redistricting commission if that person, or someone in their family, has exercised their constitutional rights to run for a partisan office, or hold an office in a political party. This burden on important First Amendment Rights cannot be justified.
The challenge to the gist of the petition led by Paula Newberry points out that the gist omits to tell prospective signatories of the petition about important parts of IP 420. For example, the gist provides no description of how the redistricting commissioners will be selected, that IP 420 would repeal the currently existing Bipartisan Commission on Legislative Apportionment, or that the effect of IP 420 would be to eliminate voters' ability to have their political party influence the redistricting process.
One of the plantiffs named in both protests is former Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Eldon Merklin.
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