Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oklahoma's Ballot Questions

Oklahomans will vote on 11 ballot questions when they go to the polls on November 2.  A good number of these have state and federal constitutional implications.  Among the highlights:

  • Voter ID.  State Question Number 746 asks voters whether they approve a voter identification requirement like the one upheld in Crawford v. Marion County.  Recall that the Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law in Crawford on a facial challenge, with little direct evidence of actual infringement on the right to vote.  The case thus left the door open for an as-applied challenge with stronger evidence.  (Indeed, such a challenge is working its way through Indiana courts on a state constitutional theory.)
  • Term Limits.  State Question Number 747 asks voters if they approve a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on the office of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Commissioner of Labor, Auditor and Inspector, and Superintendent of Public Instruction--all 8 years.  The measure would limit the term of the Corporation Commission to 12 years.
  • English as Official Language.  State Question Number 751 would add a new provision to the constitution designating English the "common and unifying language of Oklahoma."  It requires that official actions be in English, although "Native American languages could also be used."
  • De-Lawyering the Appointed Members of the Judicial Nominating Commission.  State Question Number 752 asks voters if they approve a constitutional amendment to require all appointed members of the Judicial Nominating Commission to be non-lawyers, and not to have lawyers in their families.  The measure retains the lawyer members of the Commission, elected by the state bar.
  • Public Funding Formulas.  State Question Number 754 would amend the constitution so that it could not require the legislature to fund state functions based on predetermined constitutional formulas, the amount that other states spend on a function, or how much any entity spends on a function.  This would be a super-amendment--unamendable by future action.
  • International and Sharia Law.  State Question Number 755 would amend the constitution to prohibit courts from "considering or using" international law or Sharia law. 
  • Health Care.  State Question Number 756 would amend the constitution to prohibit requiring anyone to participate in a health care system--a nullification attempt against the federal health insurance mandate.



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I invite commentary regarding one of the proposed amendments that I consider so 'absurd' as
to be dangerous, namely the "Public Funding Formulas" amendment.

It is proposed to be a "super-amendment, unamendable by future action," and I am shocked by this concept.

Under what theory of democracy can any regulation or law passed by one group of citizens at one time be permanently barred from modification or termination by that same group of citizens at some future time?

Are the people of Oklahoma that crazy that they permitted any law or regulation to be "unamendable" in their state constitution?

Posted by: s. r. winn | Oct 7, 2010 6:55:11 AM

I generally agree that an unamendable "super-amendment" is a horribly bad idea; however, there is precedence for unamendable articles in the United States Constitution, at least arguably precedence. "...And that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate." From what I've read, even a constitutional convention cannot deprive a state of equal representation in the Senate.

Posted by: Brad | Nov 4, 2010 10:52:32 PM

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