Critics Accuse Petition Gatherers of Fraud

United States

 

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

February 21, 2008

 

Critics of an anti-affirmative action petition drive in Oklahoma have accused petition-gatherers of lying to voters about what they’re signing.

"We think we can and will stop it from going on the ballot," said Shanta Driver, attorney and national spokeswoman for By Any Means Necessary, a national coalition aimed at defending affirmative action, integration and immigrant rights.

"This was racially-targeted voter fraud. We’ve had people come up to us, who are labor leaders, say they were embarrassed because they signed this petition. They thought they were signing a petition that sought to do the exact opposite."

The Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative seeks to put a measure before Oklahoma voters that would ban government-sponsored race and gender preferences in public education, state hiring and the awarding of public contracts.

Ward Connerly, who has spearheaded opposition to affirmative action in employment and education in California and Michigan, told The Oklahoman the opposition group was making "ridiculous charges."

"If we would have said this initiative bans affirmative action, we would have been throwing out the baby with the bath water," said Connerly, who heads the American Civil Rights Institute. "This initiative says there should be no preferential treatment to anyone."

The group also alleged that the petition included unregistered voters and duplicate signatures. There are some pages where all the signatures were in the same handwriting.

Other pages show multiple signers used the same mailing address, Driver said.

Connerly said his campaign is looking into the possibility of duplicate signatures.

"Duplicate signatures, it’s not only defrauding the people, it’s defrauding us because we had to pay for those … signatures," Connerly said.

The Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative submitted 2,000 signatures more than necessary to place the measure on the ballot. The Oklahoma Secretary of State found some duplication and irregularities.

It is still unclear if the office will certify the petition or defer to the state Supreme Court.

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