Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Update on the Oklahoma Three

On April 2, I posted some video of citizen activist Paul Jacob, who was being interviewed by WINA-AM radio host Rob Schilling about the initiative process, term limits, the taxpayers' bill of rights (TABOR), and related issues.

During the interview, Paul spoke about how he and two colleagues were being prosecuted in Oklahoma in a blatantly political fashion.

Now there is an update on the "Oklahoma Three" (as they're known) and what they may be facing in the weeks to come.

From the web site "freepauljacob.com" comes this news:

On July 23, the Oklahoma Three—Paul and his two co-defendants, Rick Carpenter and Susan Johnson—will have a preliminary hearing in Oklahoma City. At the hearing, the government must establish enough evidence to convince a judge to schedule a trial.

Theoretically, at least. In reality, it is rare for a judge to dismiss a case at this stage no matter how skimpy the evidence or twisted the logic of the charge.

A number of citizens and groups in Oklahoma, as well as in neighboring states, will be attending the hearing, which begins at 9:00 am on Wednesday, July 23. If you’d like to attend the hearing or events being held the day before, or have any questions about it, please email Brandon Holmes at bholmes@samadamsalliance.org.

Paul has been inspired by how pro-initiative citizens in Oklahoma are working to reform the petition process. During the recent legislative session, Attorney General Drew Edmondson vigorously lobbied Senate Democrats to block a bill to do nothing more than create a task force to study the state’s chained and neutered initiative process. Foes of direct democracy managed to thwart that proposal. But the issue isn’t going away.

According to a 2007 poll, 92% of Oklahomans support the right of citizen initiative. Yet, thanks to adverse court rulings or the sheer difficulty of the petition process, voters have been able to cast ballots on only two of 23 citizen initiatives filed this decade. (See The Oklahoman’s editorial about the hamstringing of the process.)

Now Oklahomans for Initiative Rights is doing what the legislature has refused to do—launching its own citizen task force to study the state’s petition process and make recommendations for reform.

The Attorney General’s assault against the Oklahoma Three is vindictive and outrageous. But it may also spur some much needed change. Stay tuned.

Many Americans who have used the initiative process to achieve justice will be watching these proceedings in Oklahoma to see if the rule of law is maintained, or if citizen activism just becomes another in a long list of crimes imposed by the political class on the rest of us.

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