It’s better late than never in Oklahoma, as voters will finally have a chance to vote on adult-use legalization in a March 2023 special election.
The governor’s call for the March 7 special election came only a few weeks after the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a request from initiative organizers to place the item on the November 2022 ballot following months of delay by the state in verifying signatures.
“After all the delays caused by the new signature count process, we are excited to finally be on the ballot on March 7, 2023,” Yes on 820 campaign director Michelle Tilley said in a press release.
Advocates of the ballot measure collected more than 20,000 more signatures than necessary and submitted them for approval a month before the submission deadline, but the Secretary of State’s office failed to verify the signatures in time to get the measure before voters.
The Supreme Court in September reaffirmed that the delay was due to unforeseen problems with a new process designed, ironically, to verify signatures for petition-derived ballot measures faster for the Secretary of State’s office, as well as legal challenges from petitioners. The court also noted that traditionally, it only took two to three weeks to verify signatures for a ballot measure. This year’s effort took more than seven weeks.
The court ruled there was no mechanism for it to place the item on the ballot but affirmed it would be on the next general election ballot — scheduled for November 2024 — or on the next special election called by the governor. On October 18, Oklahoma Governor Ron Stitt — a proponent of federal legalization, but an opponent of the piecemeal state-by-state legalization that is occurring across the country — announced the March 7 special election date.
“We know that the people of Oklahoma support State Question 820,” Tilley said in the release. “Now, we need everyone to pull together to get this past the finish line because we have under five months or 140 days to educate, register and activate voters to pass State Question 820.”
— Brian Beckley