Free the Oklahoma Three!

There’s nothing new about partisans playing hardball when it comes to politics. But it is unusual when partisans attempt to jail their opponents. That apparently has become the preferred tactic in Oklahoma, where state Attorney General Drew Edmondson has indicted three taxpayer activists for supposedly violating a statute that only allows “residents” to circulate initiative petitions.

It always seemed clear that this was a political hit job–for instance, one of the Oklahoma 3, Paul Jacob, long discomfited politicians by pushing for term limits. Now the evidence seems irrefutable. It turns out that when the issue of the residency requirement was raised by opponents of an initiative to ban cock-fighting.

Explains the Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association:

Lining up against the Oklahoma Attorney General’s action in the case of the Oklahoma 3 this week is the Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association.

While opposing a 2002 initiative to ban cockfighting, the OGBA found much evidence that out-of-state petitioners were being used in support of the initiative. On Sunday, they released a statement charging that they brought this issue to the attention of Attorney General Edmondson and were told that it was perfectly legal for individuals to come into Oklahoma from out of state, declare residency, and circulate petitions.

They wonder now why that same attorney general has filed felony charges against the Oklahoma 3 for doing the same thing.

In the group’s press release, headlined “Oklahoma’s Swinging Gate of Double Standards,” the group argued strongly that the law was not being applied with an even hand.

“We are Oklahoma residents and have found the Oklahoma Supreme Court decisions on signature gathering for initiative petitions to amount to a two sided coin. It is as if they ask which side of the gate you want this group on.”

The release went on: “It was as if the same law that put three people under arrest this month, in leg chains, did not apply to the exact same thing done during the signature gathering of the cockfighting petition. We now ask, is it law or politics? We lost our rights, who will next?”

“We are committed as an organization and as Oklahomans to now turn our efforts to making sure at election time, to elect those who uphold our laws in a consistent and fair manner. We pray our fellow Oklahomans will do the same. I will assure you the only common ground we have with those who petitioned for the Tabor bill is bewilderment about how a law can have two completely different outcomes, for the exact same action. Justice is not blind in Oklahoma.”

No one is surprised by inconsistency, hypocrisy, and partisanship when it comes to politics. But we expect better of the law, especially when criminal penalties–in this case felonies–are involved. IEither Attorney General Edmondson should drop the charges, or Oklahomans should drop Edmondson.