The day after City Council voted 6-4 to pass a city-wide mask mandate, a local citizen started a petition with the objective of reversing the decision and bringing it to a vote of the people. The face-covering requirement is to be in effect from November 18 to January 4 and is expected to be reviewed at the first regular Council meeting of the new year.
Jake Hollcroft, the creator of the petition, was one of many who spoke on Monday evening in opposition to the proposed mask mandate. He jokingly alleged that the passing of a mask mandate was the start of Sapulpa’s leadership driving the city to communism.
“We need to sign this official petition for an initiative and referendum so we can submit officially to the Mayor of Sapulpa for the citizens to vote on the mandatory mask mandate in compliance with our rights according to the Sapulpa charter and the constitution of Oklahoma,” Hollcroft stated in the opening paragraph for the petition.
The petition claims that the Sapulpa City Charter allows for a referendum to be submitted to the Mayor that would essentially call for an election to vote on an item—in this case, the mask mandate.
David Widdoes, attorney for the City of Sapulpa, said this process is one that “has been available since statehood,” and in fact, is quite commonly used. “Usually, it’s a state question,” he says. “The question that you go to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on during an election is brought about through that same process.”
Widdoes says an online petition like this wouldn’t have the ability to overturn the mandate in itself, but that it could serve to gauge the interest of the public in order to make a determination on whether or not to move forward with the legal procedure of a referendum. “There’s a detailed procedure,” Widdoes says. “It’s not difficult, but there are rules and time limits that are there to protect the procedure, to make sure it’s correct.”
Widdoes says he’d recommend that Hollcroft and other interested parties seek the advice of an attorney or firm with experience in creating referendums like this, in order to meet the criteria. “Normally, this is used to address legislative actions that are of a more permanent nature; I’m not sure it can be used for something temporary, like this mask mandate. In addition, you’d have to go about completing the process to get an election in place before the mandate expires, and that’s going to be really difficult to do.”