Claremore Daily Progress

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October 17, 2013

Voice of petition signers wrongly silenced

CLAREMORE —

Who will hear the collective voice of the 6,994 citizen signers of the Rogers County Grand Jury petition?
Is it you, Judge Jefferson Sellers?
Is it you, Attorney General Scott Pruitt?
Is it you, Oklahoma Supreme Court?
If we live under a government of the people, by the people and for the people -- as Abraham Lincoln famously declared in the Gettysburg Address -- then one of the above needs to impanel the grand jury promptly to investigate the serious allegations contained in the petition.
Judge Sellers’ decision Tuesday to silence the nearly 7,000 signers who called for the grand jury inquiry runs afoul of the people’s First Amendment right to petition their government for a redress of grievances. 
It also appears contrary to the liberal  intent of Oklahoma’s petition laws giving registered voters the benefit of the doubt even if they omit or fail to list their addresses when signing on to a petition.
The judge said the petition sponsors, including three law enforcement officials,  obtained the 6,994 registered voter signatures for a grand jury on unauthorized signature pages because each page did not repeat the exact wording of the court-approved petition form.
Never mind that the exact wording was contained on the cover of the manila envelope containing the signature pages, and that the purpose of the petition campaign was summarized on each page and also well known throughout the county due to extensive media coverage.
Sellers, a district judge from Tulsa County, acknowledged he wasn’t absolutely certain his ruling would hold up on appeal, and urged the petition sponsors to challenge it in a higher court so the issue could be settled for sure.
Both the judge and the state attorney general can administratively impanel the grand jury, but if they decline to do so, then the Oklahoma Supreme Court should expedite an appeal of the ruling to toss out the signatures on a technicality. 

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