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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tenth Circuit Reverses Initiative Petition Ruling

(CN) - The 10th Circuit struck down an Oklahoma law barring non-residents from circulating petitions to amend the state Constitution. A three-judge panel said the law is too broad and doesn't pass constitutional muster.

The ruling is a victory for Yes on Term Limits, which hired professional circulators to help gather signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment imposing term limits on various state offices.

At least two of the circulators are not Oklahoma residents. The organization said non-resident professional circulators were less expensive, more productive and pre-trained.

The district court upheld the ban on the ground that it was "narrowly tailored to protect the integrity of the initiative process." Specifically, circulators need to be able to return to the state in the event of a protest, the lower court reasoned.

But the federal appeals court in Denver said the ban on non-resident circulators went too far.

"Even if Oklahoma adequately established its contentions that the ability to question non-resident circulators during protest periods is necessary to prevent fraud and that non-resident circulators are more difficult to locate and question," Judge Murphy wrote, "it failed to prove the ban is narrowly tailored."

The court said the state could require non-resident circulators to provide contact information and agree to return for any protests. The state could then set criminal penalties for circulators who fail to return, the court suggested.

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