The struggle for ballot access: small victory for the Oklahoma Three

(excerpt from) Xenia Gazette
A triumph for political freedom
By Paul Jacob / 2/6/2009

I don’t feel lucky. Relieved, yes. But lucky? Not exactly.

The threat of imprisonment and financial ruin evaporated as a result, in a sense, of governmental lethargy and lento con molto pace.  In October of 2007 Rick Carpenter, Susan Johnson, and I were charged with “conspiracy to defraud the state” for our work on two ballot initiatives in Oklahoma. By January 2009, not even a preliminary hearing had been completed. [The main point of the accusations were based on two different interpretations of “out of state petitioners.”

Finally, on January 22, Attorney General Drew Edmondson withdrew the charges. One law under which we were being prosecuted had just been ruled unconstitutional by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

…It all began innocently. Rick Carpenter had invited me to Oklahoma to help out on a tax and spending limitation measure and a property rights defense measure. Susan Johnson, head of National Voter Outreach, one of the country’s top petition management firms, had been hired to manage the petitioning process…

The measures we were gaining signatures for were popular with voters, but unpopular with a number of influential interest groups. And politicians.

No wonder, then, that the state supreme court kept the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative off the ballot, ruling that anyone not intending to “permanently” reside in Oklahoma was not a resident. The court also tossed out the petitions of circulators whose residency status was challenged without ever affording those circulators an opportunity to defend themselves.

Soon, the Attorney General decided to go a step further, indicting three of us on criminal charges for conspiring to hire non-resident petition circulators, even though no one was charged as a non-resident circulator.

The prosecution was roundly blasted, right and left, by Steve Forbes and Ralph Nader, by the Wall Street Journal, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Paul Greenberg, and many others…

Case dismissed. We, the “Oklahoma Three” are free… (full story is: here.)

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge and the Citizens in Charge Foundation, which sponsors his radio program, Common Sense, Paul’s weekly column at Townhall.com, and his weekly newspaper column.

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