Collect signatures, go to prison

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Last week the state of Oklahoma indicted national political activist Paul Jacob for the “crime” of conspiring to help people collect petition signatures while they may not have been legal residents of the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in similar cases that government cannot “reduce the available pool” of people who assist citizens in communicating with their fellow citizens and petitioning their government. Oklahoma’s residency requirement for signature gatherers is already being challenged in federal court; yet it chose to charge Paul Jacob and others with a crime that, if convicted, could land them in prison for up to ten years.

Jacob went to Oklahoma only after what he calls “an expert in campaigns of harassment against petition drives” was brought in from Oregon. The leader of Oregon’s union-backed Voter Education Project helped train people in both states to “block” petitioners so they could not freely gather signatures. When Jacob tried to increase the pool of available signature gathers for an Oklahoma measure, he was arrested, even though he conformed with what he thought the regulation required.

Paul Jacob is a veteran of term limit and tax and budget limitation campaigns nationwide. He knows all too well what tactics opponents of the initiative process use to keep citizen measures off state ballots. In this case, he learned that his opponents would rather put him in prison than allow their fellow citizens to exercise their legitimate political rights.

If you want to protect your political rights, you should follow this case at and make your voice heard there and here in Oregon.

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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