Criminal justice group asks court to weigh in on signatures

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/11/2020 10:30 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A group seeking to further reduce the state’s high incarceration rate says it has enough signatures to qualify the question for the ballot and filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to force the secretary of state to accept the signatures.

Yes on 805, a group of business, political and religious leaders, seeks to amend the state constitution to prohibit prosecutors from using previous felony convictions to enhance prison sentences in nonviolent cases. It would also allow people who already had such sentence enhancements to petition the courts for relief.

Prosecutors and Gov. Kevin Stitt, who appoints the secretary of state, oppose the state question.

The group says it already had gathered more than 260,000 signatures when its effort was suspended because of the coronavirus. They only needed about 178,000 signatures to qualify the question for the ballot.

“The secretary is not entitled to simply refuse to accept an initiative petition,” the lawsuit states.

Adria Berry, an attorney in Rogers’ office, said the businesses and executive offices are closed to the public as a result of COVID-19.

Once the offices reopen and “we are able to adhere to social distancing guidelines for signature-counting personnel, the proponents will be notified immediately,” Berry said in a statement.

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