Oklahoma citizens have the right to initiate statewide legislation via ballot measures, or State Questions, as either statutory or constitutional amendments.
After an initiative petition is drafted, it goes through a lengthy process which can include various legal challenges. To qualify for the ballot, a citizen-initiated statutory amendment requires signatures of registered voters equal to 8 percent of the votes cast at the last general election for the Office of Governor, while a constitutional amendment requires 15 percent. Citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Once a petition has been determined to have a sufficient number of signatures and meets all other requirements, the Governor has the authority to call a special election to decide the petition or to place it on the ballot at the time of the next primary or general election.
Between 1989 and 2014, only 12 initiative petitions qualified for the ballot; of these, five passed and seven failed. Three initiative petitions were on the 2016 ballot. SQ 779, raising the sales tax to fund education, failed, while two criminal justice reform measures – SQ 780 and SQ 781 – passed. In 2018, two initiative petitions made it on the ballot: SQ 788, legalizing medical marijuana passed in June, while SQ 793, allowing for optometrists and opticians to practice in retail stores, was defeated in November. In June 2020, voters opted to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income adults by approving SQ 802.
An initiative petition (SQ 787) was launched in 2016 to lengthen the time period to gather signatures for initiative petitions from 90 days to one year, but it failed to gather enough signatures. Some legislators in recent sessions have introduced bills to make it harder to place initiative petitions on the ballot by raising the signature threshold.