Griffin and Fabry

Russell Griffin, left, talks to Eugene Fabry at Northeastern State University about collecting signatures to place State Question 802 - Medicaid expansion - on the 2020 ballot.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion need 178,000 signatures if they want to see the question put to the vote of the people, and they only have 47 days to collect them.

Tahlequah area residents have been getting trained to collect signatures and are currently out gathering them. Some observers have asked why petitions are not left at grocery or convenient stores to be signed, but it's because the person collecting them must be present.

"You can't leave them sitting out, because the person who gets the signatures actually has to attest on the notarization that they witnessed every signature that happened," said Russell Griffin, who conducted a training from Yes on 802 Tuesday. "So you can't leave them lying around. You have to keep it on your person and make sure you witness every signature."

The parameters for collecting signatures is detailed by organizations like Yes on 802 and Indivisible Oklahoma. As well as being present for signatures, a collector must ensure he or she has the entire petition for people to read. The signer must be at least 18 years of age, and must ensure that every person's voter registration information is up to date.

Eugene Fabry participated in the petition training at Northeastern State University's Continuing Education building Tuesday, and he wondered why the signature process is so complicated.

Griffin said it's because those hoping to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot next year expect a fight once the signatures are submitted.

"We just want to make sure that everyone that signs gets counted," he said. "We know the OCPA [Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs] will be filing legal action against us as soon as we turn in the signatures, and who knows who else."

Local residents might see a few more people walking around town with clipboards and petitions, as the number of collectors has steadily risen since the drive started. Fabry said he plans to ask people at his apartment complex and church to sign.

"I'm retired, so I don't have anything in the fight, but it seems like a good thing to do," he said.

Petitioners may also be approaching people at events going on around the city.

Cathy Cooper Cott said she has some football games and meetings at which she plans to collect names. She said the signature drive has been "pretty good," but that she's not alone.

"There are a lot of people besides me here collecting signatures," she said.

Should the questions be placed on the ballot and Oklahomans vote "yes" on State Question 802, it would expand Medicaid and bring more than $1 billion to the state's health care system. Many believe if the state does not expand Medicaid, those federal dollars will just wind up going to another state. Legislators have long argued on whether to expand Medicaid, but Yes on 802 Campaign Manager Amber England said voters should have a say.

"Politicians have had their chance - it's time voters decided on this," said England. "We've waited for far too long, and unfortunately, too many people fall into a gap where they are working hard, but can't afford health care. We hope everyone who hasn't added their name to the petition will get behind this common-sense effort."

Members of the Cherokee County Democrats have started collecting signatures. CCD Chair Pam Iron said a petition is available at the Cherokee County Health Services Council office for people to sign.

Dell Barnes, CCD vice chair, said the party will hold a meeting Sept. 17 at the Armory Municipal Center at 5:30, and he expects information regarding the petition to be available.

"We're having a non-meeting session," Barnes said. "We're going to do committee work, meet-and-greet, and a 'get involved' kind of thing. We'll probably have that petition there as well to hopefully scoop up some more signatures."

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