Improving signature verification process

Oklahoma voters often are asked to sign petitions to place state questions on statewide ballots that may result in changes to state law. Medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion are just a few examples of statute changes as a result of this process.

Our citizenry must remain free to change laws that affect them – either through direct petition or the people they elect to represent them. It is our duty, however, to ensure the process by which this is accomplished is fair and fraud free.

For more than 100 years, the verification process for signatures gathered for initiative petitions or initiative referendums has been done by hand by groups of people in an office at the state Capitol. Often, they are literally just counting the number of signatures, only randomly selecting a few to make sure they match the state voter database.

A bill I coauthored this year with the speaker of the House vastly improves this process. House Bill 3826 requires that signature gatherers collect certain data points for verification purposes and then allows the Secretary of State’s office to use technology to cross-reference that data to ensure each signature actually matches up with people who are registered to vote in a particular county.

Three or more data points must match for an individual signature on a petition to be approved. The data points may include the voter’s first name, last name, zip code, house number and numerical month and day of birth. We worked with the Secretary of State’s office on language for the bill to give them greater flexibility and speed in responding to technology updates if needed on short notice.

This is long overdue. Several states around us like Missouri and Colorado already have updated their technology. I was glad to win passage of this bill in the House and help see it signed into law by the governor.

Making sure the signatures that bring changes to law in our state are actually those of Oklahoma voters is a priority.

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