Oklahoma voters realized during the past few years they will have to take things into their own hands if they want to tackle any big issues.
Lawmakers evidently consider things like medical marijuana, criminal justice reform and expanding health care coverage to Oklahomans who can least afford too politically sensitive. Casting a public vote on such topics could cost them an election — heaven forbid.
Populist traditions adopted by the Oklahoma's founding fathers provide a remedy for that problem. And frustrated voters hoping to cure a system unresponsive to their needs are taking advantage of the citizen-led initiative petition more frequently than they have in the past.
CNHI State Reporter Janelle Stecklein found while Oklahoma voters "have long had the power to create and change laws at the ballot box," there has been an uptick since 2016 in support of the process. Three of the five initiative petitions put before voters since 2016 became law.
A sixth petition to expand Medicaid garnered a record number of signatures, and it appears certain that measure will appear on 2020 general election ballots. Supporters of another citizen-led petition being circulated now want voters to decide whether legislative districts should be drawn by a nonpartisan commission rather than legislators.
Some of those who hold the keys to power now are crying foul. They see these ballot measures as a tool being wielded by leftist liberal groups who are manipulating public policy. Critics contend these groups spend millions of dollars doing so, sidestepping the legislative process and representative democracy in the process.
It is more likely these initiative petitions are being pursued due to frustration that has been mounting because lawmakers bend more to the will of special interests than to those who elected them.
Lawmakers are able to ignore the will of voters because they control the redistricting process, which takes place after each decennial census. Mapping technology facilitates a process that lets lawmakers choose their voters rather than the way it was designed: voters elect their representatives.
We understand this frustration and the need for a redistricting process that removes partisan politics. We urge residents to take part in their government, and if that requires a citizen-led initiative petition, so be it.