State senator wants to abandon petition

Wednesday, January 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A group that wants English to be deemed the official language of Oklahoma is seeking to abandon the initiative petition proposal before the state Supreme Court.

State Sen. Carol Martin's group has filed a motion in the Supreme Court to withdraw the petition without affecting their right to submit a new petition on the issue to the court during the next election cycle.

"We think our money would be best spent doing another petition," Martin, R-Comanche, said Tuesday.

Martin led the initiative petition drive that gathered more than 100,000 signatures of Oklahoma voters wanting a statewide vote to make English the state's official language.

Matthew F. Stowe, a Washington attorney representing Martin, said withdrawing the petition allows the group to take advantage of the experience gained through other states court cases on the English-only issue.

After signatures were gathered and the petition was sent to the state Supreme Court, it ran into legal challenges. The proposal was challenged on constitutional grounds. Petition signatures also were challenged in the Supreme Court.

These challenges proved fatal to plans by English-only supporters to get the issue before voters on last November's general election ballot.

"I think it was a disappointment to Oklahoma people," Martin said.

Supreme Court referee Gregory Albert, assigned the English-only case by the Supreme Court, has issued an order requesting all interested parties to respond by Feb. 8 to the motion to withdraw the petition.

Martin and state Rep. Ron Kirby, D-Lawton, were the co-leaders of the initiative petition drive. But Kirby, who had a re-election campaign, wasn't very active on behalf of the proposal after the petition was circulated. He said Tuesday he didn't know that Martin was asking to withdraw the petition.

"I don't have a problem if they do," Kirby said.

Martin has no specific date on when a new initiative petition drive on this issue would be started, she said.