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Initiative petition circulators not allowed within 300' of polling place

Below is a letter delivered on Friday, October 29, 2010, to Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant by attorney Greg Bledsoe on behalf of Tulsans Defending Democracy, regarding the legaltities of initiative petition circulators near polling places. It is TDD's position that the law does not permit SOT's at-large petition to be circulated closer than 300 feet from any polling place. That's 100 yards!

If citizens see this happening when they vote on Tuesday Nov. 5, we urge them to notify their precinct election officials and ask them to stop this activity. Citizens might also consider calling the Tulsa County Sheriff-918-596-5601- and ask them to investigate.

I represent Tulsans Defending Democracy, a grass-roots, non-partisan group that has organized to oppose a ballot initiative to change the Ciy of Tulsa Charter by adding three at-large city council positions. As you may or may not know, a group called Save Our Tulsa (SOT) has proposed three initiative positions, including the one involving at-large elections, and has petition circulators seeking signatures of registered voters in various public places within the City of Tulsa. See: http://saveourtulsa.com/dyn/showpage.php?id=15

In the past, groups like SOT have sought to solicit signatures for initiative petitions outside of polling places on Election Day. Often the solicitors have sought signatures closer than 300 feet of the polling place and sometimes even closer than 50 feet. This was a particular problem in the 2004 general election. We believe this practice violates the law against "electioneering" within 300 feet of a ballot box and certainly with respect to any person other than election officials and voters being within 50 feet. A copy of the Tulsa World article from November 3, 2004, reporting this problem is enclosed.

26 O.S. 7-108 reads as follows:

No person shall be allowed to electioneer within three hundred (300) feet of any ballot box while an election is in progress, nor shall any person or persons, except election officials and other persons authorized by law, be allowed within fifty (50) feet of any ballot box while an election is in progress. No printed material other than that provided by the election board shall be publicly placed or exposed within three hundred (300) feet of any ballot box, while an election is in progress. (Emphasis added.)

According to the Tulsa World, your predecessor, gene Pace and the then State Election Board Secretary, Mike Clingman, regarded the seeking of signatures for an initiative petition as a form of "electioneering" and asked the Tulsa County Sheriff to keep the petition circulators from being closer than 300 feet of a ballot box. We also think that the current initiative petitions being circulated on behalf of SOT are a form of "electioneering." Tulsans will be voting on November 2, 2010 on a charter change affecting the date of city elections, and one of the initiative petitions is a proposed charter change affecting the date of city elections.

We would ask you to do the same as Mr. Pace and Mr. Clingman and request that you make all precinct election officials aware of this concern. Specifically, we ask, as was done in 2004, that you and your election officials ask such circulators to move no closer than 300 feet of a ballot box and if they refuse, ask the Tulsa County Sheriff to investigate the matter.

Very truly yours,

D. Gregory Bledsoe

Tim Harris, Tulsa County District Attorney, via email
Stanley Glanz, Tulsa County Sheriff, via fax
Stephen A. Schuller, Counsel for SOT, via email


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