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McAlester News-Capital

Challenge puzzles voter
2002-11-25

When it comes to the American right of voting, Erby Webb wants to know “what’s the use?”

Webb, who calls himself a faithful voter, says he has voted in every election possible since he was old enough. Considering he is now 91 years old, that's a lot of elections.

In each of those elections Webb believed his vote counted. He also believed that everybody's vote was special; nobody else's vote counted any more than his.

He believed in democracy.

Democracy, according to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary, is "a government by the people, especially the rule of the majority; a government in which the supreme power is held by the people."

So to Webb it is only right that because the majority of the people - 56 percent - voted to ban cockfighting, then cockfighting should be banned.

Instead, almost as soon as the proposal became law, it was challenged. Exactly two weeks after the law went into effect authorities in Adair, Choctaw, McCurtain, Muskogee, Sequoyah, Cherokee, Wagoner and Pushmataha counties could not enforce the ban on cockfighting.

On Friday Associate District Judge Robert Highsmith added Carter, Johnston, Love, Marshall and Murray counties.

Before the Nov. 5 election, Oklahoma was one of only three states where the practice was still legal. A group of people could get together, put sharp steel blades on roosters' lower limbs, place two birds in a pit and watch them fight, even until they died.

Some people who raise fighting roosters say the ban affects their livelihoods. Lawsuits recently filed by several cockfighting supporters claim that outlawing the fights infringes on their economic rights and would deprive people of their property without just compensation.

The lawsuits also claim the new law is unconstitutional in that it is too vague, too broad and interferes with interstate commerce.

Motions have been filed in all 13 counties by attorney Larry Oliver which name the state, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement officers as defendants.

A Jan. 17, 2003, hearing date has been set in Johnson County for Oliver's request for a temporary injunction.

Janet Halliburton, an attorney for the Oklahoma coalition Against Cockfighting, warns that even though authorities have temporarily been stopped from enforcing the law in the 13 named counties, the law is still valid and may be used in the future against anyone participating in a cockfight.

Webb says that even though he voted against cockfighting, that doesn't have any bearing on whether or not the law should be enforced. "The people voted to ban rooster fighting and that's what should happen," he said. "I don't think six or eight people who still want rooster fighting should be able to knock out all those votes.

"If this is what's going to happen, there's no use of voting any further."