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 (currently 92,262 signatures based on the 2022 gubernatorial election), while a constitutional amendment requires 15 percent (currently 172,993 signatures). 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, while an initiative petition aimed at prohibiting a convicted person’s former felony convictions from being used to calculate future punishments (SQ 805) was defeated in November 2020. An initiative petition to allow recreational use marijuana, SQ 820, gathered sufficient signatures but failed to meet the deadline to appear on the November 2022 ballot; Gov. Stitt called a special election to decide SQ 820 for March 7, 2023, where it was soundly defeated.
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 to qualify for the ballot. Some legislators in recent sessions have introduced bills that would make it harder to place initiative petitions on the ballot by raising the signature threshold or by requiring that the signature threshold be met in every Congressional district or county.