Out-of-State Ballot Petitioner Ban Upheld in Oklahoma


The practice of out-of-state professional petitioning is struck a blow by an Oklahoma court. In a decision last week in the case of Yes on Term Limits v. Savage, U.S. District Court Judge Tim Leonard upheld a challenged Oklahoma state law (in effect since 1969) banning out of state residents from being ballot petition circulators and signature-collectors there.

The plaintiffs (one of whom is occasional Hit and Run commenter Eric Rittberg aka Eric Dondero) argued that the Oklahoma law violated "their First Amendment rights to engage in political association and to speak on matters of public concern," as well as their "rights under the Privileges and Immunities Clause to engage in political speech and to practice their chosen profession in Oklahoma" and the Commerce Clause to boot, because it reserves "the trade of gathering signatures for pay to Oklahoma residents alone."

Judge Leonard decided that "the residency requirement is sufficiently tailored to meet Oklahoma's compelling state interests in protecting the integrity of its initiative process and policing the process once it has been completed," largely since it is difficult, he claims, to track down or double-check, and impossible to subpoena, out of state signature collectors.

Leonard grants that the Oklahoma law "would increase the cost of the petition drive," but says "there is no indication that the increased cost would be prohibitive."

Ballot Access News's short report. The full decision.