Sponsors of Oklahoma State Question 805 turned in 260,000 signatures on Monday

Yes on 805, sponsors of proposed Oklahoma State Question 805, turned in 260,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on June 1. State Question 805 would prohibit a convicted person’s former felony convictions from being used to “enhance the statutorily allowable base range of punishment, including but not limited to minimum and maximum terms.” The initiative would provide for sentence modifications for eligible persons.

Yes on 805 President Sarah Edwards said, “Oklahoma has an incarceration crisis. This crisis separates families, damages communities and hurts our state’s chances of success. For several years, legislators have tried to pass legislation that would rein in sentence enhancements and reduce extreme sentences. These efforts have failed despite widespread support from state leaders and Oklahoma voters. This campaign is a continuation of recent criminal justice reform efforts, acknowledging that much more still needs to be done to address this crisis.”

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R), who opposes the initiative, said, “Trying to put this into our state’s constitution, it peels back enhancements for DUIs, human trafficking, domestic violence — some of the things I don’t think we need to put into our constitution.”

To qualify for the ballot, 177,958 valid signatures are required. Proponents had collected more than 260,000 signatures as of early March. On March 17, 2020, Sarah Edwards, president of Yes on 805, made the following statement regarding COVID 19: “Effective immediately, Yes on 805 will suspend all of its public activities, including signature gathering. The health and safety of our signature collectors and the public at large is our number one priority. We are doing our part to protect and support our communities by taking steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re confident in the status of the campaign and the strength of our movement, and look forward to fulfilling the will of Oklahoma voters by filing the signatures needed to put State Question 805 on the 2020 ballot.”

On March 18, 2020, the Oklahoma Secretary of State tolled the signature gathering deadline for initiative petitions until the governor lifts the state’s emergency declaration, which meant the window for signature gathering for each initiative was pushed forward instead of continuing to run during the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 7, 2020, Yes on 805 filed a petition with the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking for Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers to accept the more than 260,000 signatures the group had already collected. Sarah Edwards, president of Yes on 805 said, “It’s imperative we place State Question 805 on a 2020 ballot. People who are serving excessive sentences can’t wait another year. Their families can’t wait. We hope this legal move will prompt quick action from the Secretary of State to ensure the thousands of Oklahomans who signed our petition to place SQ 805 on the ballot have their voices heard.”

Secretary of State Michael Rogers said he would not accept the signatures until the state’s emergency declaration ends, which was set to end at the start of June. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on May 26, 2020, that the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office must accept the signatures within 10 business days. Sponsors submitted signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office on June 1, 2020.

A signature count was expected to begin on Wednesday. It was not known how long the count was expected to take. After the count is complete, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will determine the sufficiency or insufficiency of the number of signatures as counted by the Secretary of State. At this time, the state attorney general will review the ballot title and make any changes deemed necessary.

Signature validity and ballot title changes could be challenged legally within ten days after the Secretary of State publishes the signature count and final ballot title. Once all legal objections are resolved, the governor places the state question on the ballot.

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