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The Free & Equal Elections Foundation has made a financial commitment to a lobbying effort in Oklahoma aimed at easing the nation’s highest petition requirement for unqualified political parties.
The foundation has given an initial grant to Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) a coalition of the state’s third parties to help fund its lobbying of state House Bill 1072 through February. The bill would lower Oklahoma’s ballot-access requirement for small parties. Free & Equal plans to give more to the effort as the legislative process moves forward.
“Nowhere in the nation is the two-party stranglehold felt more than in Oklahoma, home to America’s most exclusionary ballot-access law for third parties,” Christina Tobin said, Free & Equal founder and chairwoman. “Oklahoma should be looked upon nationally as the focal point in the fight for fair treatment of small parties who are denied their right to compete on a level playing field.”
Oklahoma currently requires unqualified parties to gather signatures of registered voters equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the previous election for president or governor. For this year’s election, that comes out to 73,134 signatures, but about twice that amount is needed to ensure the goal is met. Among other reasons, signatures can be invalidated if addresses and names of signers are inconsistent with voter rolls.
In its current form, HB 1072 would lower the requirement to 3 percent while tying it to the last vote for governor only. This would place Oklahoma parallel with Alabama, which has the same requirement.
OBAR has instructed its lobbyist to propose an even lower threshold of 1 percent or a flat 5,000 signatures, which was the law from 1924 – 1974. During that 50-year stretch, Oklahoma never had more than two ballot-qualified third parties. OBAR also points out that nearly 30 states require 5,000 signatures or less.
“Oklahoma won’t line up with the rest of the country on this issue until it gets the threshold down to around 1 percent,” Micah Gamino said, Free & Equal Media Director. “Why should Oklahoma be out in left field on this? The decision of who to vote for should belong to the people, not the government. People don’t care about party politics as much as they care about seeing the job done right.”
Free & Equal is working with OBAR to plan a high-level, free and equal elections event, tentatively slated for April 11 at Noble Park in Guthrie, Oklahoma, to raise awareness about Oklahoma’s exclusive election laws.
Oklahoma Quick Facts:
- Only state to have only Republican and Democrat on the ballot for president in 2008 and 2004.
- One of only five states that does not allow “write-in” votes.
- Requires new parties to get 10 percent of the vote for governor or president in the next General Election to remain ballot-qualified.