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The Daily Oklahoman

Cockfighting ban headed for state vote - Challenges to proposal end in state court
John Greiner

08/20/2002

Oklahomans will likely vote in the Nov. 5 general election on whether to ban cockfighting.

The governor's office, informed Monday that the final challenges to the proposal are over in the state Supreme Court, is "leaning toward the general election ballot" for the anti-cockfighting vote, said Dan Mahoney, spokesman for the governor.

Gov. Frank Keating was notified by the secretary of state that the Supreme Court rejected a bid by opponents of the anti-cockfighting proposal to continue the legal battle.

Keating will make a decision on the election date this week, Mahoney said. He must issue a proclamation setting the election date.

"The Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting is very pleased this matter will be before the people, and Oklahomans will have an opportunity to vote to ban this practice once and for all," said Cynthia Armstrong, treasurer of the coalition and campaign manger for the campaign to pass it at the polls. "It's been a three-year ordeal."

A statewide vote has been unnecessarily delayed, and it's overdue, Armstrong said.

"We were hoping to be on the presidential ballot in November 2000. As the matter got tangled in the courts, we realized it was a marathon and not a sprint," she said.

Janet Halliburton, the leader of the 1999 initiative petition drive to halt cockfighting in Oklahoma, could not be reached Monday.

Larry Oliver, attorney for the Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association, which has fought the proposal, said, "I don't know what we are going to do."

He has talked in the past about the possibility of going to federal court.

Mahoney said the governor's staff Monday afternoon discussed the anti-cockfighting proposal, State Question 687.

Although the governor's legal counsel still is reviewing the Supreme Court's order, a decision on an election date could be made later this week, Mahoney said.

"The governor's position on this issue is he would vote for the ban," Mahoney said.

That has been the governor's position since the beginning, Mahoney said.

Mike Clingman, state Election Board secretary, said there is plenty of time to get the issue on the Nov. 5 election ballot if that is the date the governor selects for a vote.

Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico are the only states that allow cockfighting.

The anti-cockfighting petition, if approved by voters, would make cockfighting and related activities a felony. Conviction would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Being a spectator at a cockfight would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Halliburton and Armstrong were among those in the forefront of the initiative petition drive when it was launched in 1999. Armstrong is campaign manager for the coalition campaign to pass the anti-cockfighting proposal.

The coalition obtained nearly 100,000 signatures on the petition calling for a vote on banning cockfighting.

Opponents filed legal challenges against the petition in the Supreme Court.

The court issued a ruling in November validating the petition. Opponents asked for a rehearing and got it.

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a second opinion upholding the petition but throwing out 29,290 signatures - not enough to nullify the initiative.

The gamefowl breeders association again asked for a rehearing and asked that the Supreme Court disqualify itself from hearing the case.

The court rejected both motions Thursday.