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Daily Oklahoman

No on 698 - It Would Stifle Direct Democracy

BARRING further court action, the state question calling for a ban on cockfighting

in Oklahoma will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. But it won't be the only state question related to cockfighting.

Gov. Keating on Tuesday set the November general election as the day for consideration of State Question 687, which would outlaw the sport of cockfighting. After a prolonged legal challenge, supporters of the ban will finally get their initiative before the voters. We expect SQ 687 will be approved by a healthy margin.

A related state question, however, should be defeated. It's SQ 698, which would change the state constitution's requirements regarding initiative and referendum petitions.

SQ 698 would nearly double - from 8 percent to 15 percent - the number of voters required to sign an initiative petition and get an issue on the ballot. But 698 doesn't apply to all petitions. It applies only to petitions involving restrictions on animal-related activities.

The Legislature placed 698 on the November ballot under pressure from state Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, who was clearly reacting to the anti-cockfighting petition.

We see no reason that the number of signatures should vary according to the subject matter of the petition. This is a back-door attempt to stifle direct democracy.

Arguments that the petition process could be used to outlaw an animal activity such as hunting or rodeo are lame. Getting signatures of even 8 percent of voters is not that easy or cheap, and the people would have the final say at the ballot box.

If the number of signatures required for calling an election is too low, then the people should be asked to raise that number for all initiatives, not just the few that might relate to animal activities.

This was a bad bill and it's a bad state question. We hope the percentage of voters who cast a ballot against it will be more than enough to defeat it on Nov. 5.