Friday, March 28, 2008

Recent developments on trojan horse initiative

Since I've mentioned the misleadingly titled Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative before (see Vichy Dem blog misrepresents video and The Civil Rights Initiative That Wasn't), an update seems to be in order.

Here's what I can dredge up - as the story receives minimal coverage - on the latest surrounding the initiative, including legal challenge based on issues surrounding the validity of the signature gathering process used by the petition's sponsors. First, from late February in Fired Up! Missouri:
Today in The Oklahoman newspaper there's a story that sheds more light on the devious lengths to which anti-progress petition circulators are going in order to advance their agendas. In this specific case, the supporters of an Oklahoma petition that would ban affirmative action --an initiative identical to one advanced by the same proponents here in Missouri-- have been engaging in fraudulent practices in the course of circulating their petition.
One group trying to defend the state against the petition spoke out yesterday about rampant fraud:
The group alleges the petition included unregistered voters and duplicate signatures. There are some pages where all the signatures were in the same handwriting. Other pages show multiple signers used the same mailing address, Driver said. Driver also said there is evidence petition-gatherers collected names at homeless shelters.
Underhanded circulation tactics by out of state circulators are nothing new. Professional circulators who pushed a TABOR petition both here in Missouri and in Oklahoma in 2006 were actually indicted for fraudulent practices last year in the Sooner State.
Making this doubly worrisome is the fact that --once again with the Klan-backed anti-affirmative action petition as with the TABOR petition last cycle-- essentially the same band of mercenary circulators are moving petitions in both Missouri and Oklahoma.
How do we know the same folks allegedly engaging in fraud in Oklahoma are also moving petitions here in Missouri? They themselves admit as much. Consider the testimony of professional circulator Mary Edith (Edee) Baggett from a deposition on January 29 of this year (questions from the deposing attorney, answers from Ms. Baggett):
Q. And so what are you doing in Missouri?

A. The Oklahoma -- the Missouri Civil Rights initiative. And I'm consulting with the eminent domain proponent. I'm sure there's more.

Q. Have you started collecting signatures on either the Missouri Civil Rights initiative or the eminent domain proposal?

A. Missouri Civil Rights initiative is being corrected presently. Just into it a few days, actually. And then the eminent domain issue is being circulated by volunteers.
The Oklahoma and Missouri anti-affirmative action efforts are so intertwined --even in the mind of the person responsible for the collection effort-- that she conflates them as she begins to answer the first question above by talking about the "Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative" before catching herself and correcting her statement.
Can there be any real doubt, given that petitioners can't keep the two states straight, that whatever tactics and strategies were used by Baggett to collect signatures in Oklahoma are also being used here in Missouri?
Now, on to news of the legal challenge from earlier this month:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Ten Oklahoma voters, including two lawmakers, filed a legal protest in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday challenging the so-called Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative.

There was no immediate comment Friday afternoon from petition sponsors at their Tulsa headquarters.

Chuck Thornton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, said the signature-gathering process for the petition is rife with errors.

State Reps. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and Jabar Shumate of Tulsa are among those challenging the validity of the petition in the state high court.

They argue the petition is an attempt to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs, such as affirmative action.

"When equal opportunity and the civil rights of our residents are at stake, it is critically important that the electoral process is fair, transparent and honest," Thornton said.

He expressed confidence the petition would be thrown out of court because of faulty signature-gathering.

The legal challenge comes after the petition's signatures were found to be sufficient in number by the secretary
of state and sent to the Supreme Court for certification.

Last month, Secretary of State Susan Savage sent a letter to the court saying the petition contained a large number of duplicate names and addresses.

Savage also said signature counting was complicated "due to the scope and number of irregularities noted among the signature pages," including multiple signatures by petition circulators.

Opponents of the petition say it is similar to petitions sponsored in other states by California businessman Ward Connerly, head of the American Civil Rights Institute.

They say a similar ballot initiative in California reduced the participation of women and minorities in higher education, contracting and employment.

"It is well known that Connerly and his front groups have repeatedly misappropriated the language of the civil rights movement to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs in states across the country.

"But we the voters of Oklahoma must not be fooled," Shelton said.

"Although we are strongly opposed to the content of this ballot measure, today's challenge is about protecting the integrity of the electoral process in the state of Oklahoma," he said.

Besides Shelton and Shumate, others challenging the petition are Fannie Bates, Randall T. Coyne, Bob Darcy, Bernadette Huber, Rey Madrid, Bernice Mitchell, Earl D. Mitchell Jr., and Juanita Vasquez Sykes.
As the saying goes, stay tuned...

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