TULSA â€” A lawsuit was filed Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of a ballot measure that would require people to present identification before voting. Itâ€™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 â€œright of suffrage by those entitled to such right,â€ 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: â€œAll elections shall be free and equal. No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.â€ 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. â€œI believe the citizens of Oklahoma without hesitation feel that that legislation is important and that itâ€™s appropriate,â€ 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. â€œIf they donâ€™t have a photo ID, itâ€™s their county-issued election card,â€ Ford said. â€œIf they have lost that, another card will be mailed to them at no expense. â€œIf they get to the polls and have absolutely no identification, they will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot (which will be checked later and counted if verified),â€ he said. â€œIt costs no citizen any money, and they wonâ€™t be turned away from the polls. â€œMy frustration is individuals that are opposed to this keep talking about it as an impediment and it will disenfranchise groups, but the way weâ€™ve crafted it, it truly does not.â€ The lawsuit names Gov. Brad Henry as the sole defendant. Henryâ€™s office declined to comment, but Henry in 2009 vetoed a similar bill authored by Ford; the senator and others came back this year with a resolution that put the matter before voters. Henry, in his veto message, called the right to vote â€œamong our most precious freedomsâ€ and that Oklahoma has a model state election system. â€œIt is not in the best interest of the election system or Oklahoma citizens for the Legislature to enact new participation requirements for registered voters and additional and potentially confusing verification duties for election workers that could cause undue delays and longer waiting lines at the polls, potentially discouraging even more citizens from voting,â€ Henry wrote in his veto message.Comments
Other measures challengedThomas last week filed a lawsuit in Tulsa County District Court on SQ 751, which requires with a few exceptions that official state actions be conducted only in English. He claims the measure, which took effect last week, infringes on free speech and violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the free speech clause of the stateâ€™s constitution. A federal lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Oklahoma City challenging enforcement of SQ 755, which would prohibit Oklahoma courts from considering international law or Shariah law. A judge last week blocked that measure pending further hearings.