Ballot wording hit; Keating sees tight race

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ With five days to go before a statewide right-to-work election, opponents of the measure complained Thursday that the ballot title is confusing.

Oklahoma voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide State Question 695. At issue is whether Oklahoma becomes the 22nd state to enact a law that bans labor contracts requiring workers to pay union dues.

Polls showed the pro-695 side with a 2-1 lead early in the campaign, but Gov. Frank Keating, who backs the measure, says the race is now tight.

Opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment gathered on the steps of the Capitol to criticize the wording of the ballot title.

``It is so poorly written and confusing, that one can only conclude it was deliberately designed to mislead voters,'' said Tom Guild, business law professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Zona Mullinox of Shawnee, an opponent of right to work, said the amendment confused her.

``I'm not an expert on constitutionality, but I have read State Question 695,'' she said. ``The amendment is 644 words long and the ballot uses the word ban seven times.''

Mullinox and Guild were not specific about exactly how the amendment is confusing.

A ``yes'' vote on State Question 695 is a vote in favor of banning labor contracts requiring workers to pay union dues. A ``no'' vote favors the status quo, in which such contracts are allowed.

Keating has been pushing for a right-to-work law since taking office in 1995. He held a news conference Thursday urging Oklahomans to exercise their right to vote.

He said that although unions have heavily financed the opposition, he thinks 50 percent of rank-and-file firefighters and other public workers will vote for 695.

Grace Hall, spokeswoman for Vote No on 695, said Keating's statement on fire fighters ``is ridiculous.''

``Fire fighters are the main part of our coalition against State Question 695,'' Hall said. ``They are the main ones who have been speaking out that health care benefits are at risk.''

Keating and other proponents hotly dispute anti-695 arguments that right-to-work will mean lower wages and health benefits in Oklahoma.

Backers of the measure say it would help Oklahoma's economy.