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Oklahoma voter ID measure challenged

A lawsuit claims State Question 746 interferes with Oklahomans' voting rights. It is the third challenge to a state question approved by voters earlier this month.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: November 17, 2010 at 6:22 am •  Published: November 17, 2010

— A lawsuit was filed Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of a ballot measure that would require people to present identification before voting.

It's the third state question approved by voters earlier this month to face a court challenge.

The voter identification law enacted by passage of State Question 746 interferes with the “right of suffrage by those entitled to such right,” according to the lawsuit filed in Tulsa County District Court by James C. Thomas, a Tulsa attorney and a University of Tulsa professor.

The measure imposes undue limits on the right to vote, Thomas wrote in the lawsuit, and is unconstitutional under Article 3 of the state constitution, which reads: “All elections shall be free and equal. No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

Thomas said SQ 746, which received 74.3 percent support, also violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying voters equal protection of the laws. He filed the lawsuit on behalf of Delilah Christine Gentges, identified as a Tulsa County resident and an Oklahoma taxpayer, and the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa.

The measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires voters to show identification at the polls. Those without the required identification could sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot.

Sen. John Ford, author of Senate Bill 692, which evolved into SQ 746, said he is disappointed by the lawsuit.

“I believe the citizens of Oklahoma without hesitation feel that that legislation is important and that it's appropriate,” said Ford, R-Bartlesville.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld more restrictive voter identification measures in other states, he said.

SQ 746 states that voters must have a document that has the name and photograph in order to vote, but in lieu of such a document, voters could present voter ID cards that are issued free by their county election board.

“If they don't have a photo ID, it's their county-issued election card,” Ford said. “If they have lost that, another card will be mailed to them at no expense.

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