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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — There are not enough verified signatures on the petition to impanel a grand jury to investigate Oklahoma County DA David Prater according to the Oklahoma County Election Board.

Thursday, the Election Board sent a letter to Oklahoma County Court Clerk Rick Warren informing him that there were only 4,666 valid signatures on the petition. It needed at least 5,000 verified signatures to continue the process.

Organizers who gathered the signatures turned in ten boxes of petitions to the Court Clerk earlier with what they thought were around 7,200 signatures.

prater
Ten boxes containing a total of 655 petitions with 11 signatures on each are carried by volunteers to the Court Clerk’s office Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Organizers cited Prater’s charging of protesters in May 2020 with terrorism, his relentless maneuvering to make sure Julius Jones was executed (Governor Stitt granted clemency before the execution), and over-zealous prosecution of people of color intended to “intimidate” their communities.

Deep disappointment – outrage

After the word came out that the Election Board determined there were not enough signatures, some of the organizers spoke out.

“At the end of the day, there is still an urgent desire within Oklahoma County to hold District Attorney David Prater accountable for his long history of racist, targeted harm. We hope to still be able to do that through the grand jury process, even with the present obstacle presented by the Oklahoma County Election Board,” said Nicole McAfee.

Another leader, Tamya Cox-Touré with ACLU Oklahoma also expressed deep disappointment with the outcome and the process:

“We knew throughout this process we were doing something novel, and we are now considering the options in front of us to challenge so many of our community members having their signatures dismissed. This statutory opportunity is meant to empower Oklahoma citizens, and to have the Election Board so eagerly limit our voices is disappointing as well as concerning,” said Cox-Touré.

A statement from the whole group of leaders of the petition criticized the process, saying it was “not open to witnesses” and that the Election Board staff “refused to verify approximately one-third of the submitted signatures gathered by members of our community….”

Verification process

In an interview with Free Press, Doug Sanderson, secretary of the Oklahoma County Election Board, said that they “look at every signature” on a petition.

He would not agree to state a number of how many total signatures they inspected on this particular petition, however.

“I heard some incorrect reporting on how many signatures there were,” said Sanderson. “I think there was an assumption that every one of the signature pages was complete.”

He said that since they were doing work for the courts he would not have very much to say but did tell us some about the standard process they use for validating.

Sanderson then told us that there are three things for the public to know about their process:

  • “We first assume that that the [signatures] are correct.”
  • “The second thing is, we give the benefit of the doubt to the person who signed.”
  • “Then, thirdly, what I would say is that every person we reject, before it’s rejected, it’s looked at multiple times, by different people.”

We pressed Sanderson on just what they do before deciding that an individual signature is invalid.

“We use multiple ways, multiple people, multiple times,” before they count a signature invalid, said Sanderson.


Last Updated December 16, 2021, 3:55 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor