As I was wheeling my grocery cart towards my car, I spotted a shortish woman with a pair of clipboards, but paid no attention to her: she was busy talking to two other women who were loading a pickup bed with sacks of food. At about the point where I had the first of five bags gotten into the trunk, she spotted me, and brought forth the pitch.
I should have guessed: she was circulating a petition. Make that two petitions. It had been a while since I'd seen any such thing around my part of town, and I admit to having been caught off-guard; had I been I at full snark, I might have asked her if she were a bona fide resident of the state. I read over the two items she was bearing, and recognized them as State Questions 737 and 740. (More precisely, I recognized them to be items I knew about, and looked up the actual numbers later.)
SQ 737 [link goes to PDF file] is the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative, a cousin to Ward Connerly's original California Proposition 209, passed in 1996. Paragraph (a) is identical in both:
The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
Had this been introduced in, say, 1964, it would be hailed as landmark legislation. But this is 2007, and the elimination of discrimination is now considered "divisive" by those who have figured out how to profit from it. There exists video footage of someone trying to block a collector of signatures for this initiative, which pretty much guaranteed that I'd sign it on general principle.
SQ 740 [link goes to PDF file] is a measure promoted by Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform, which would reduce the number of petition signatures required to get a political party recognized by the state, from 5 percent of the last presidential or gubernatorial vote (around 73,000 currently) to a flat 5,000. The OBAR group is a joint venture of three "third" parties in the state: the Constitution Party, the Libertarians and the Greens. What they have in common is that their candidates can't get on state ballots with their party affiliations. (For example: Green activist J. M. Branum ran for House District 99 in 2006, but he could not legally be identified as a Green; he had to run as an Independent.) I've been pushing for this sort of thing for years, and I duly signed in.
It should be remembered that the getting of sufficient signatures will not, in and of itself, get either of these reforms enacted: all it will do is get them on the general-election ballot, where the electorate gets their say. And I admit that my concept of democracy requires that I sign just about everything, because I want the electorate to have their say, although I drew the line at the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights of 2005, because something about it smelled funny. These two measures, by comparison, seem a breath of fresh air.
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Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill