Outline of the Oklahoma Initiative and Referendum Petition Process

The following information is for statewide initiative and referendum petitions only. It is intended for general information purposes to provide a brief understanding of the petition process. The information is not intended to interpret the law. The laws for the Initiative and Referendum are located in Title 34 of the Oklahoma Statutes and Article 5 and 24 of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Drafting of Initiative Petition or Referendum Petition

(34 O.S. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 9)

  • Proponent(s) draft petition pamphlet and corresponding suggested ballot title (Contact Oklahoma Ethics Commission for disclosure information).
  • Proponent(s) notify Secretary of State of intended date and time of filing.

Filing Petition & Suggested Ballot Title

(34 O.S. Sections 7, 8 & 9)

  • Proponent(s) to file petition and suggested ballot title with Secretary of State and Attorney General
  • Designation of State Question and Petition Numbers by Secretary of State
  • Receipt for filing to Proponent(s) by Secretary of State
  • Notice of filing to Governor and Election Board by Secretary of State

Notice of Publication – Filing of Petition

(34 O.S. Section 8(B))

  • Secretary of State publishes the “Notice of the Filing of such petition and Apparent Sufficiency or Insufficiency of said Petition” which includes notice that any citizen(s) of the state may file a protest as to the constitutionality of said petition.

Petition Protest – Hearing and Determination

(34 O.S. Section 8)
Any protest to the sufficiency or insufficiency of the petition or its constitutionality must be filed in writing to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and to the proponent(s) of a petition within ten (10) business days after publication of the “Notice of the Filing of such petition and Apparent Sufficiency or Insufficiency of said Petition”.
If protest filed:

  • Protestant(s) must file a copy of the protest with the Secretary of State on.
  • Supreme Court sets hearing schedule, not less than ten (10) business days after a protest is filed, to hear testimony and arguments for and against the sufficiency or constitutionality of the petition.
  • Hearings held
  • Supreme Court shall decide whether such petition is in the form required by law.

Circulation Period

(34 O.S. Section 8)

  • Initiative Petition — Once all appeals, protests and rehearings have been resolved or the period for such has expired, the Secretary of State shall set the date for circulation of signatures for the petition to begin but in no event shall the date be less than fifteen (15) days nor more than thirty (30) days from the date when all appeals, protests and rehearings have been resolved or have expired. Notification shall be sent to the proponents specifying the date on which circulation of the petition shall begin and that the signatures are due within ninety (90) days of the date set.
  • Referendum Petition — All signed signatures supporting a referendum petition shall be filed with the Secretary of State not later than ninety (90) days after the adjournment of the legislative session in which the measure, which is the subject of the referendum petition, was enacted.

Who May Sign Petitions

(34 O.S. Sections 3, 8, & 23)

  • Legal, registered voters of the state of Oklahoma

Early Filing of Signatures or Termination of Signature Circulation Period by Proponent(s)

(34 O.S., Sec. 8)

  • Proponents may terminate the circulation period any time during the ninety-day (90) circulation period by certifying to the Secretary of State that:
    • All signed petitions have already been filed with the Secretary of State;
    • No more petitions are in circulation, and
    • The proponents will not circulate any more petitions.
  • Withdraw the petition by providing written notification to the Secretary of State before the final submission of signatures.

Filing of Signatures

(34 O.S. Sections 4 & 8)

  • Proponent(s) notify Secretary of State of date and time signed petitions will be filed, including number of boxes to be delivered.
  • Secretary of State seals signature boxes until count begins
  • Secretary of State issues a receipt to proponent(s) stating the filed date of the signed petitions and number of boxes submitted.
  • Additional signature sheets shall not be accepted after 5:00 p.m. on the ninetieth day.

Signature Counting

(34 O.S. Sections 3, 4, 6.1 & 8)

  • Secretary of State notifies Proponent(s) the specific date, time and location for the signature count.
  • Secretary of State trains counters
  • Proponent provides observer(s) for counting process
  • Physical Count:
    • Petitions are detached from signature sheets
    • A physical count of the signatures is carried out in accordance with the requirements of 34 O.S. Sections 6 and 6.1;
    • Signature sheets are consecutively numbered;
    • Signature sheets and one (1) printed copy of the petition are bound in consecutively numbered volumes, which include a cover sheet showing the volume number, purported number of signature sheets, the series of numbers assigned to the signature sheets and the total number of signatures counted for that volume

Signature Requirements

(Oklahoma Constitution Article 5 Section 2)

  • The number of required signatures is based upon the total number of votes cast at the last general election for the Office of Governor. The ratio and per centum is:
    • Referendum (5%)
    • Initiative (8%)
    • Initiative for Constitutional Change (15%)
    • Rejected Initiative or Referendum Measures (25%)

Ballot Title Review

(34 O.S. Section 9)

  • Secretary of State submits proposed separate ballot title to the Attorney General for review as to legal correctness when signed copies of a petition are timely filed.
  • Attorney General, within five (5) business days after receipt of the ballot title, notifies Secretary of State whether or not the proposed ballot title complies with applicable laws.
  • Attorney General states with specificity any and all defect found and if necessary, within ten (10) business days of determining that the proposed ballot title is defective, prepares and files a ballot title which complies with the law.

Report to the Supreme Court

(34 O.S. Section 8(H))

  • After conducting a count of the filed, signed petition, the Secretary of State certifies to the Supreme Court:
    • the total number of signatures counted; and,
    • the total number of votes cast for the state office receiving the highest number of votes cast at the last general election
  • Secretary of State provides proponent(s) copy of certification to Supreme Court
  • The Supreme Court makes a determination of the numerical sufficiency or insufficiency of the signatures counted by the Secretary of State.

Supreme Court Determination of Numerical Sufficiency or Insufficiency AND Order of Publication

(34 O.S. Section 8)

  • Order issued by Supreme Court is filed with the Secretary of State
  • Upon order of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of State publishes a notice:
    • of the filing of the signed petitions and also,
    • the apparent sufficiency or insufficiency thereof, and also,
    • the text of the ballot title as reviewed by the Attorney General pursuant to the provisions of Title 34 O.S. Section 9 Subsection D, and
    • notice that any citizen(s) of the state may file an objection by a written notice to the Supreme Court and to the proponent(s) filing the petition.
  • Any objection must be filed within ten (10) business days after publication of notice and must relate only to the validity or number of the signatures or a challenge to the ballot title.

IF an objection is filed

(34 O.S. Sections 8(I)(J)(K), 9, 10 & 11)

  • Objections shall be filed with the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State and the proponent(s) of said petition on or before the tenth (10) business day after publication of notice.
  • Secretary of State delivers the bound volumes of signatures to the Supreme Court if the objection is to the signature count or validity thereof
  • Any person who is dissatisfied with the wording of the ballot title may appeal to the Supreme Court by petition in which shall be offered a substitute ballot title for the one from which the appeal is taken.
  • Supreme Court shall resolve the objection(s) with dispatch

Secretary of State transmits to the State Election Board and Governor an attested Copy of the Measure including the Official Ballot Title IF:

(34 O.S. Sections 9(D)(2) & 12)

  • NO objections were filed within ten (10) business days of the notice AND Supreme Court determined number of signatures SUFFICIENT,
    Or
  • After any and all objections or appeals have been resolved AND Supreme Court determined number of signatures SUFFICIENT

Proclamation by Governor Calling Election

(34 O.S. Sections 12 & 25)

  • When an initiative or referendum petition has been properly filed with sufficient signatures thereon, as provided in this title, and all objections or protests have been resolved or the period for filing such has expired, the Secretary of State shall, in writing, notify the Governor, who shall issue a proclamation setting forth the substance of the measure and the date on which the vote will be held.
  • Whenever any measure shall be initiated by the people in the manner provided by law, or whenever the referendum shall be demanded against any measure passed by the Legislature, same shall be submitted to the people for their approval or rejection at the next regular election; provided, the Governor shall have power, in his or her discretion, to call a special election to vote upon such questions, or to designate the mandatory primary election as a special election for such purpose.

Publication of Measures

(34 O.S. Section 17)

  • It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State, not less than five (5) business days before any election held throughout the state at which any proposed law, part of an act, or amendment to the constitution is to be submitted to the people of the state for their approval or rejection, to cause to be published once in two different newspapers of general statewide circulation and in a newspaper of general circulation in each county, a copy of all ballots on initiated and referred questions, measures, and constitutional amendments, and an explanation of how to vote for or against propositions.

Oklahoma State Election Board to certify Election Results to Governor and Secretary of State.

Publication & Codification in Oklahoma Statutes or Constitution

(34 O.S. Section 5)

  • The Secretary of State shall cause every such measure so approved by the people to be printed with the general laws enacted by the next ensuing session of the Legislature with the date of the Governor's proclamation declaring the same to have been approved by the people.

Petition Preserved According to Law

(34 O.S. Section 5)