On May 20, the Oklahoma legislature passed HB 2246. It expands the petitioning period for initiatives from 90 days to one year. It also permits petition forms to be on 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper, instead of the old 14 inch-long paper. That change makes it easier to distribute the forms, because home computers frequently have printers that can handle 11 inch long paper, but fewer can handle 14 inch paper. Therefore, more individuals can easily download blank petition forms at home.
Assuming that Governor Brad Henry signs SB 800 and HB 2246, and assuming that the 2010 voters pass SJR 13, one could make the case that Oklahoma will have a slightly easier procedure for initiatives to get on the ballot, than for new parties to get on the ballot. If these pro-initiative measures had been in effect in 2007, and also if the 10th circuit decision Yes on Term Limits v Savage had already been issued in 2007 (instead of 2008), the OBAR (Oklahoma Ballot Access Reform) initiative to ease the ballot access laws probably would have succeeded.
Comparing the number of signatures required for initiatives, versus new parties, under these new bills, is interesting. For the 2010 election, new parties in Oklahoma need 73,134 valid signatures. Yet, under SJR 13 (which lowers the number of signatures for initiatives in years after presidential election years), an initiative aiming for the 2010 ballot would need 74,117 signatures, virtually the same number as for a new party.
The First Amendment Freedom of Association clause protects the right of the people to form new political parties and get them on the ballot. By contrast, nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires the states to permit initiatives. Yet assuming all the good improvements passed by the Oklahoma legislature for initiatives become law, Oklahoma will be in the historically unique position (for any state) of having procedures for initiatives that are virtually no more difficult than procedures to put a party on the ballot.