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Ballot questions are at odds, winner takes all

A.G.: State Question 744 and State Question 754 could well end up in courts given state statute dealing with "conflicting measures."
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: October 28, 2010 at 12:35 am •  Published: October 28, 2010

One measure on Tuesday's ballot would require a huge boost in state spending on common education. A second ballot measure is intended to prevent the first from taking effect.

If both fail, a state law on "competing measures" could mean the one receiving the most overall votes — both for and against — automatically reappears in two years for the next general election.

If both are approved, the law says the one with the most "yes" votes would be the one that takes effect.

As a practical matter, in either situation, the court system will likely have to determine the outcome of the election, the state attorney general's office says.

"You have to determine whether they are truly conflicting questions under the statute," said Charlie Price, spokesman for the attorney general's office. "It's going to be a decision that would probably end up at the Supreme Court."

However, the authors of both of the ballot initiatives say it is fairly clear-cut what would happen in the scenario where both state questions are approved.

State Statute 34-21 deals with "competing measures" on ballots and states "if two or more conflicting laws shall be approved by the people at the same election, the law receiving the greatest number of affirmative votes shall be paramount."

"I don't see any way they are not competing measures," said Kent Meyers, an Oklahoma attorney who has written a dozen ballot initiatives for clients including SQ 744. "If you vote for 744 you ought to vote against 754."

To his knowledge conflicting ballot questions have never been approved.

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