University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name League of Women Voters of Oklahoma v. Ziriax VR-OK-0019
Docket / Court 118765 ( State Court )
State/Territory Oklahoma
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
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 ... read more >
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.

Jack Hibbard - 08/14/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Appellate Court is initial court
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Secretary of Oklahoma State Board of Elections Paul Ziriax
Plaintiff Description League of Women Voters Oklahoma and two individuals
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 08/14/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
O-118765 (State Supreme Court)
VR-OK-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2020
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Brief in Support of Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Request for Extraordinary Relief
VR-OK-0019-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/23/2020
Source: State Court Website
Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Request for Extraordinary Relief
VR-OK-0019-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/23/2020
Source: State Court Website
Secretary Paul Ziriax's Response to Petitioner's Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction and Request for Extraordinary Relief
VR-OK-0019-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2020
Source: State Court Website
Order
VR-OK-0019-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2020
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Judges Gurich, Noma Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-OK-0019-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Muchmore, Clyde A. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0019-0003 | VR-OK-0019-0004 | VR-OK-0019-9000
Rughani, Melanie Wilson (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0019-0003 | VR-OK-0019-0004 | VR-OK-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Batt, Niki Suzanne (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0019-9000
Schneider, Thomas R. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-OK-0019-0001 | VR-OK-0019-9000

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