Less than 48 hours before an Aug. 8 submission deadline, two Green The Vote board members say their organization’s president has been dramatically exaggerating marijuana-petition signature numbers for State Question 796 and State Question 797.
“The numbers that have been spoken are not even close to what is in the office,” Dody Sullivan said in a Monday evening Facebook live video.
Fellow board member Jamie Nall affirmed: “Quite frankly, it’s a big lie.”
The Oklahoman’s Dale Denwalt first reported on the women’s allegation late Monday evening.
SQ 796 proposes rules about medical marijuana for the Oklahoma Constitution, while SQ 797 seeks to legalize marijuana recreationally in the Sooner State. Voters already approved a statutory program for medical marijuana on June 26.
Organizers need to submit about 124,000 valid signatures from registered voters by Wednesday to qualify the petitions for a statewide ballot, though other potential hurdles in the process make a November appearance by either measure unlikely, even if signature thresholds are reached.
That seems even less likely following the statements Ashley Mullen-Lowry, Nall and Sullivan made to Green The Vote supporters in their 12-minute video (embedded below) Monday evening.
Sullivan said she had been tasked with counting the valid signatures at Green The Vote headquarters and that she resigned from the organization July 31 with only 31,244 signatures prepared for submission on SQ 797. Mullen-Lowry said she believed the number had climbed to about 73,000 signatures after Sullivan’s departure.
But in recent weeks, Isaac Caviness, president of Green The Vote, had distributed messages telling supporters that the organization had collected three to four times as many signatures. Days before Sullivan said she resigned, Caviness reportedly told the Tulsa World that more than 132,000 signatures had been collected.
“It took a while for my moral compass to find north. I am no longer with Green The Vote. I have removed myself from the board,” Sullivan said in Monday’s video. “The numbers that I counted were not the numbers that you were given. And for me, that’s the rub. That’s where I’m having a really difficult time with this.”
The Oklahoman reported that attempts to reach Caviness were unsuccessful Monday, but earlier in the day he had created a new Facebook page while expressing vague bewilderment that Green The Vote’s original page had been “hacked.”
Hours later, however, the original GTV page relaunched before publishing the three women’s video. In it, Nall says she was responsible for the digital disruption.
“I’m still technically a board member, and I have not been involved. So I took some ‘Oomph,’ and went and shut down the Facebook because I’m not having any more lies spread,” Nall said. “So if you want to put the blame, here it is. I did it, y’all. And what I see is someone in power taking advantage of women and telling them what to do. We’re not going to have that.”
Caviness had recorded his own video Sunday evening on the original Green The Vote page.
“We didn’t give a signature count today. You see what we’re in here doing,” Caviness said while seated behind a stack of papers. “We’ve been spread thin. We’re tired. We’re wore out. We’re doing pretty good on not being cranky so far, except for when Uncle Grumpy is here because he gets a free pass for being grumpy.”
The video from Sullivan, Nall and Mullen-Lowry was taken down at some point late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Shortly before midnight Tuesday, a somber Caviness released a response video on his personal Facebook page:
“When we came out with our first numbers, they were low,” Caviness says in the video above. “There was a decision that was made strictly between Dody and I to estimate what we believed the number to be and to put it out there as the hard number. And both of us had a crisis of conscience over it, but we both felt like it was what needed to be done to try to make sure that we did not lose momentum.”
Caviness said he did not want people to “get discouraged with the number” and that, after accumulating totals this week, both state questions had more than 70,000 signatures collected.
“We did not mean this in any kind of a malicious way, and we felt like we were estimating very close, and I should not have told you all these were hard numbers,” he said in the video. “I should have told you all that these were estimates. There were only two people who knew this, and that was myself and Dody.”
Caviness said that after additional signatures arrive at Green The Vote headquarters there is a “strong possibility” that the petitions will achieve their thresholds.
Wednesday afternoon, Green The Vote submitted signatures at the Oklahoma Secretary of State office. Caviness delivered a brief speech to supporters that was captured in this Facebook video. He said he did not know how many signatures had ultimately been turned in.
Powell: ‘Regrettable and unconscionable’
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Chris Powell released a statement on the situation late Monday evening:
While this is certainly disappointing, it remains the case that over half a million Oklahomans voted in favor of medical cannabis on June 26. The signature requirement to place constitutional questions such SQ 796 and SQ 797 on the ballot seemed impossibly high for a purely grassroots effort to attain when these initiatives were first announced and, despite tremendous amounts of time and energy invested by people across the state, that turns out to be the case. I understand the desire to report positively, but it is regrettable and unconscionable that inaccurate numbers were released. Regardless of how many signatures are turned in on Wednesday, I urge every voter who cast a ballot in favor of SQ 788 to support candidates in this year’s elections who have demonstrated a commitment to uphold the will of the people.
(Update: This post was updated at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, to include additional remarks from Isaac Caviness. It was updated again at 8 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, to include more information about Green The Vote’s submission of signatures.)