Case: League of Women Voters of Oklahoma v. Ziriax

20-118765 | Oklahoma state trial court

Filed Date: April 23, 2020

Closed Date: May 4, 2020

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

COVID-19 Summary: This is a case brought by a nonprofit and individual voters in Oklahoma, seeking a change in election law in light of COVID-19. The Oklahoma Supreme Court mandated the Election Board to recognize sworn statements and prohibited them from issuing ballots that suggested notarization was the only way to legitimize a ballot. The case is now closed. Represented by private counsel, plaintiffs began by submitting an application to the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking that they assume or…

COVID-19 Summary: This is a case brought by a nonprofit and individual voters in Oklahoma, seeking a change in election law in light of COVID-19. The Oklahoma Supreme Court mandated the Election Board to recognize sworn statements and prohibited them from issuing ballots that suggested notarization was the only way to legitimize a ballot. The case is now closed.


Represented by private counsel, plaintiffs began by submitting an application to the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking that they assume original jurisdiction over the matter on April 23, 2020. The plaintiffs were two individuals and the League of Women Voters Oklahoma, and they brought suit against Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board Paul Ziriax.

The issue at hand was whether Oklahoma election law required voters to submit absentee ballots with a notarized affidavit, or whether voters could simply sign a statement under penalty of perjury guaranteeing that the ballot was legitimate. The plaintiffs found this particularly important in 2020, because the COVID-19 outbreak meant that it would be risky for many voters to go to the polls in person, so voting absentee was crucial. However, it would be far easier to simply cast a ballot sworn under penalty of perjury than to get a notarized affidavit.

In a brief submitted that same day, the plaintiffs argued that the Oklahoma Supreme Court had power to assume original jurisdiction because there was no other appellate process to review action or inaction by the State Election Board. They also pointed out that, under Oklahoma law, a notarized affidavit is not the only method of legitimating an absentee vote -- the law also allows for a sworn statement under penalty of perjury. In fact, the law itself provides the very text that would be acceptable to provide such a sworn statement.

In his April 29, 2020 response, respondent Ziriax argued that the Court could not assume original jurisdiction because that power was reserved for reviewing judicial or quasi-judicial government actions. He also argued that petitioners misunderstood the statute they cited, arguing that it only applied to legal documents in judicial and quasi-judicial contexts.

Just a week later, however, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a two-paged order, which assumed original jurisdiction and mandated the Election Board to recognize sworn statements. The order also prohibited the respondent from issuing ballot forms that suggest notarization as the only way to legitimize an absentee ballot.

The case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Jack Hibbard (8/14/2020)

People


Judge(s)

Gurich, Noma (Oklahoma)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Muchmore, Clyde A. (Oklahoma)

Rughani, Melanie Wilson (Oklahoma)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Batt, Niki Suzanne (Oklahoma)

Schneider, Thomas R. (Oklahoma)

Judge(s)

Gurich, Noma (Oklahoma)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Muchmore, Clyde A. (Oklahoma)

Rughani, Melanie Wilson (Oklahoma)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Batt, Niki Suzanne (Oklahoma)

Schneider, Thomas R. (Oklahoma)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

20-118765

Docket

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma v. Paul Ziriax

Oklahoma state supreme court

May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

Docket

118765

Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Request for Extraordinary Relief

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma v. Ziriax

Oklahoma state supreme court

April 23, 2020

April 23, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief in Support of Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Request for Extraordinary Relief

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, Angela Zea Patrick, and Peggy Jeanne Winton

Oklahoma state supreme court

April 23, 2020

April 23, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

118-765

Secretary Paul Ziriax's Response to Petitioner's Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Request for Extraordinary Relief

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma v. Paul Ziriax

Oklahoma state supreme court

April 29, 2020

April 29, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

118-765

Order

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma v. Paul Ziriax

Oklahoma state supreme court

May 4, 2020

May 4, 2020

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated June 27, 2022, 3:01 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Oklahoma

Case Type(s):

Election/Voting Rights

Special Collection(s):

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 23, 2020

Closing Date: May 4, 2020

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

League of Women Voters Oklahoma and two individuals

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Secretary of Oklahoma State Board of Elections Paul Ziriax, State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Special Case Type(s):

Appellate Court is initial court

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

General:

Voting access

Voting:

Election administration