Oklahoma voters will have to wait to have their say on legalizing adult-use marijuana, reports KOCO.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously that legalization will not be on November’s ballot. The Yes On 820 campaign hoped the court would rule in their favor. Bu that’s not going to happen.
State Question 820 could not be printed on ballots in time to comply with the deadline for mailing them to absentee voters, the court said, reports Tulsa World.
Bogged Down… By Design?
The Oklahoma Election Board said the internal deadline for printing the ballots was Aug. 26, according to the court’s order.
State Question 820 “will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma, albeit either at the next general election following November 8, 2022, or at a special election set by the Governor or Legislature,” according to the order.
Lawmakers perhaps bogged down the initiative petition process by design. This happened after legislators required the Secretary of State’s Office to verify signatures in addition to counting them, the court order said.
Slow-Walking The Process?
The Yes On 820 campaign accused Oklahoma state officials—and a third-party company hired last month to verify signatures—of slow-walking the process. According to campaigners, state officials did this deliberately to obstruct their efforts to get legalization on the ballot before the state begins printing ballots.
“It is disappointing that a few people with their own political interests were able to use the process to prevent voters from voting on this in November,” Yes on 820 Campaign Director Michelle Tilley said.
“However, we cannot lose sight of how far we have come. This is a big deal,” Tilley said, reports Leafly.
“Now the petition phase is finished, and Oklahomans WILL be voting to legalize recreational cannabis here and we can soon realize all the benefits it will bring to our state,” Tilley said, reports The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma Officials Delayed Signature Verification
Supporters got enough signatures from registered voters to qualify the question for the ballot, reports Public Radio Tulsa.
But the state “took longer than usual” to verify the signatures. Besides, opponents filed several legal challenges challenging the question. That ran out clock. There wasn’t enough time to resolve the challenges and still get the ballots printed.
Tilley said the challenges were “frivolous but unfortunately they used the process, and it kept us off this ballot,” reports News 9.
State officials delayed signature verification. And that made the proposal’s organizers miss critical deadlines needed to get on the general election ballot.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Refuses To Allow An Exception
The organizers asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to allow an exception, reports KOSU. Justices agreed the organizers were not at fault for the delays. But the majority wrote that it didn’t have the power to make exceptions.
“There is no way to mandate the inclusion of SQ 820 on the November 2022 general election ballot,” the opinion reads in part.
The question will now go before Oklahoma voters in 2024, unless the governor calls a special election to put it on the ballot sooner.