Questions And Answers
On State Question 698
What does SQ 698 do?
SQ 698 would amend the
Oklahoma Constitution to require that ballot initiatives relating to animal
welfare obtain nearly twice the number of signatures needed for an initiative
on any other subject. In order to qualify an initiative for the ballot,
a citizen group must obtain a total number of signatures equal to 8% of
the number of people who voted in the last general election. SQ 698 would
increase the total percentage of signatures needed to 15% of the number
of people who voted in the last general election in order to qualify any
animal welfare initiative.
How did this measure get on the ballot?
The state Legislature referred to it the ballot at the
behest of the cockfighting lobby. The legislators pushing this measure
needed votes of a simple majority of state representatives and state senators
to place SQ 698 on the ballot. The Senate passed the measure by a single
vote, over the objection of legislators concerned about the voting rights
When will it appear on the ballot?
Isnt the anti-cockfighting initiative, SQ 687,
slated to appear on the November 2002 ballot also?
Both measures are expected to appear on the same ballot,
and that is upsetting to the cockfighters. After animal welfare advocates
secured the signatures needed to qualify the anti-cockfighting issue for
the ballot, cockfighters challenged the validity of the signatures in
the courts. They spent hundreds of thousands in legal fees in a desperate
effort to invalidate the petition and prevent the people of Oklahoma from
deciding whether cockfighting should remain legal. They mistakenly believed
that the court would throw out the anti-cockfighting petition and force
the animal welfare groups to gather signatures for a new measure. They
wanted to see voters approve SQ 698 so that the new signature-gathering
standard called for in SQ 698 essentially doubling the number of
signatures needed would apply.
So what happened to their court challenge?
By a unanimous 8 0 ruling in November 2001, the
Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the cockfighters arguments and determined
that the anti-cockfighting initiative meets all of the qualifications
for placement on the ballot. In short, the courts derailed the cockfighters
two-step plan first, getting the courts to invalidate the anti-cockfighting
initiative, and, second, campaigning to pass a constitutional amendment
to make it a practical impossibility to gather the signatures needed to
place any new anti-cockfighting initiative on the ballot.
Given that SQ 687 the anti-cockfighting initiative
will appear on the ballot, is SQ 698 still relevant?
It certainly is. If voters approve SQ 698 and reject SQ
687, then any new attempt to qualify an anti-cockfighting initiative would
face the new and impossibly high signature gathering standard. Whats
more, SQ 698 would nearly double the number of signatures needed for any
animal welfare initiative, whether that involves strengthening the states
anti-cruelty statute, amending our states anti-dogfighting statute,
or protecting communities from the effects of hog factory farms.
How many signatures would be needed under the new standard
called for in SQ 698?
Under the terms of the Oklahoma Constitution, it is necessary
to gather about 100,000 signatures about 8% of the total number
of people who voted in the November 2000 election - within a 90-day period
in order to qualify a measure for the ballot. Under existing constitutional
requirement, thats a very tough standard to meet, and thats
the major reason that Oklahoma has so few citizen initiatives. If voters
approve SQ 698, it would require citizens to gather about 200,000 signatures
in 90 days an almost impossible task for any animal welfare
Have there been many animal welfare initiatives in
No. In fact, the anti-cockfighting initiative is the first
ever animal welfare initiative ever advanced in Oklahoma, and the initiative
process has been in place since statehood
Why should citizens oppose SQ 698?
SQ 698 not only implies that Oklahomans are too ignorant
to discern what constitutes cruelty to animals, but also sets a precedent
for the Legislature to deny citizens an opportunity to decide other issues
for themselves. It is an attack on the voting rights of Oklahomans.
Who is behind SQ 698?
State Senator Frank Shurden a longtime cockfighting
enthusiast - was the author of the legislation that eventually became
SQ 698. His original bill, which the Senate passed, but the House blocked,
would have guaranteed citizens of Oklahoma a constitutional right to
engage in occupations and sports that involved animals. In effect,
his original measure was so radical that it would have barred the adoption
of any new regulations or statutes to protect animals, including cockfighting.
When that measure failed, Shurden and his allies opted for the attack
on the initiative process, as a stealthy way to block any animal welfare
reforms through direct voting by the people.
Isnt SQ 698 needed to protect hunting, trapping,
circuses, and rodeos?
There have never been serious attempts in the state Legislature
to restrict hunting, trapping, or the use of animals in rodeos. Cockfighting
defenders recognized that a measure about the unpopular practice of cockfighting
would be rejected in the Legislature or at the ballot box by the people.
So they lumped other more popular and common animal uses, such as hunting,
fishing, and rodeo, into the measure in an attempt to attract a broader
base of support., even though these practices are not threatened.
How would SQ 698 affect Oklahomas image?
No other state with the initiative process has one set
of signature gathering requirements for animal welfare issues and a separate,
and lower, standard for all other issues. Its just unfair. Oklahoma
is one of just three states where gruesome and barbaric practice of cockfighting
is legal, and it is an embarrassment to our state. Placing a measure on
the ballot at the urging of cockfighting only contributes to a poor statewide
image. The underlying message of SQ 698 is that legislators believe that
the people of the state are too ignorant and gullible to decide issues
Have other states had ballot questions to restrict
Voters in other states have rejected amendments to take
away their voting rights, and Oklahomans should as well. Proposition 201
sought to amend the Arizona Constitution to create a two-thirds majority
to pass any initiative to protect wildlife. Voters rejected this referendum
with a 63% no vote in November 2000. In Alaska, there was
a measure on the ballot to amend the Constitution to forbid any citizen
initiatives to restrict hunting or trapping. Voters rejected that measure
with a 64% no vote not because they opposed hunting,
but because they viewed the measure as an obvious attempt to limit their
voting rights and place all policy-making power in the state Legislature.
The initiative process is a safety valve that citizens can use when the
Legislature fails to take action on an issue of importance to the people,
and the people support the existence of a workable initiative process
even if they use it sparingly.
Who opposes SQ 698?
A broad spectrum of organizations oppose this measure,
from the Oklahoma Humane Federation to Oklahoma League of Women Voters
to the Oklahoma Christian Coalition.
What do the Daily Oklahoma and The Tulsa World say
about SQ 698?
The Daily Oklahoma called SQ 698 shameful
and dishonest and urged a no vote on SQ 698. The
Tulsa World said, we hope Oklahoma voters will have more sense than
their elected representatives and see this unfair and extreme measure
for what it is: an attempt to interfere with voting rights and undermine
the very democratic principles that this country was founded on.
How can I help?
Vote no on SQ 698 in November 2002. Urge others
to do the same. Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper.
You may also wish to volunteer with the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting,
which is urging a yes vote on SQ 687 and a no
vote on SQ 698.
Published by the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting