Lawsuits Expected After Three Oklahoma State Questions Pass

Wednesday, November 3rd 2010, 5:10 pm
By: News On 6

Chris Wright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The election is over, but the controversy produced by its results is just beginning. Two of the state questions that passed Tuesday night will be challenged in court.

And it will likely happen soon. The first questions to be challenged are the one that will require voters to bring a photo ID to polls and another that makes English the state's official language.

Both passed easily, but some experts say that doesn't make the results legal.

When Oklahomans filled out their ballots Tuesday, they made feelings about state Question 751 clear. The English-only question passed with 76 percent of the vote.

The same goes for State Question 746. Seventy-four percent of voters said yes to requiring photo ID's when voting.

10/28/2010 Related Story: State Question 751 Would Make Oklahoma 'English Only' State

Despite the overwhelming majority, TU professor James Thomas says both questions are unconstitutional.

"The anger of people cannot impose a restriction on the freedom of other people," said James Thomas, University of Tulsa law professor.

Thomas plans to file a lawsuit within the next week. He says the ID requirement for voters discriminates against the poor and the elderly, who may not have, or be able to get, government-issued identification.

He believes the use of only English for any business done by local and state governments is also blatantly unconstitutional.

Thomas says the questions were put on the ballot simply to rile up conservative voters.

"The purpose was to feed the anger of people so that they would come to the polls with that anger," Thomas said.

"It's apparent to IRON that the professor's intent is literally to divide a state against itself," said Carol Helm of Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now, or IRON.

11/2/2010 Related Story: Oklahoma Voters Decide On State Questions

Helm heads IRON, a group that backed both 746 and 751, and she says Professor Thomas is out of touch with Oklahomans.

"I don't know where the guy's coming from. Why would he invest the money? What's his agenda? That's what I mentioned to you. Why?" she said.

But Thomas says the lawsuit is his only recourse against a state government that has shifted even further to the right.

"If the court ever joins the anger mood of the legislature and the branch of government in Oklahoma, then I think the people are in real trouble," said Law Professor James Thomas, University of Tulsa.

The English-Only provision won't take effect immediately. A law will now be written during the next legislative session, and will likely go into effect either next July or November.

Another State Question is also facing a fight.

CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, said it will announce a lawsuit Thursday challenging State Question 755. 

The measure forbids Oklahoma judges from considering Sharia law or international law when making a ruling. Sharia law is used in many Islamic countries, and can include harsh punishments like stoning and amputation.

CAIR says the new constitutional amendment is unconstitutional.

Oklahoma was the only state with a question related to Sharia Law on its ballot.