NORMAN — Dozens of people supportive of State Question 805 were caught electioneering outside polling places in Norman, Noble and Oklahoma City during Tuesday’s election.
Joy Hampton, spokeswoman for the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, said the SQ 805 proponents were soliciting signatures for the proposal which still needs about 80,000 signatures so it can be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.
If approved, SQ 805 would prohibit state prosecutors from using sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders of non-violent crimes. In many cases, prosecutors ask judges to sentence the habitual offenders to more time in prison based on their previous convictions.
Numerous calls were made to the Cleveland County Election Board to report allegations of electioneering early Tuesday. Election board Assistant Secretary Kathy Singer said deputies responded to 21 precincts where alleged violations were reported.
In one instance at Wildwood Community Church, a SQ 805 supporter had set up a table and chair and was seen asking voters to sign his petition.
State law prohibits campaigning of any kind within 300 feet of the polling location while the election is in progress.
In many instances on Tuesday, the SQ 805 supporters were standing outside the entrance to the polling place.
In addition, state law states no printed material other than that provided by the election board “shall be publicly placed or exposed within 300 feet of an ballot box while an election is in progress.”
Deputies responded to each complaint and issued verbal warnings to the people violating state election laws, Hampton said. In some cases, the violators left the area temporarily, but returned and began collecting signatures again after deputies drove away.
If deputies were called back to those same precincts, they issued written warnings to the SQ 805 supporters. No written citations, which are equivalent to traffic tickets, were issued, Hampton said.
“This is the most [electioneering violations] we’ve seen in recent history,” Hampton said.
Sheriff’s deputies across the state are required to protect voters, polling places and the ballot boxes.
Kris Steele, executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and a leader of the SQ 805 movement, said he did not know about the specific violations in Cleveland County.
“Our volunteers go to where people are and they may have thought those would be good places and were unaware of the 300-foot rule,” he said. “We are intentional about complying with all rules and laws.”