Bob Johnston and Carla Howell: Okla. Ballot Access Signature Requirement Comes Down From Stratosphere

Libertarian PartyFrom LP News, September 2015 (Volume 45, Issue 3, page 6)

While Oklahoma still has the strictest petitioning requirement in the nation for a presidential candidate not running as a Democrat or Republican, the signature requirement was dramatically reduced in May when Gov. Fallin signed Bill 2181 into law.

The bill lowered the number of signatures required for newly qualifying parties from 5 percent of the gubernatorial vote (which, for 2016, would have been 41,188 signatures) to 3 percent (24,712 signatures).

Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR), a coalition of the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties, championed the bill. OBAR has been fighting since 2004 to reform Oklahoma’s archaic ballot access laws.

2000 was the last year that the Libertarian Party, or any non-establishment party, had a partisan candidate on the state ballot. Fundraising for a petition drive to place the LP on the ballot in Oklahoma in 2016 is under way, aided by a generous donation of matching funds from Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News.

In other states:

Alabama: The Senate committee passed Bill S.B. 221, but it went no further. The bill would have cut the required number of signatures for a state or federal candidate from 3 percent of the previous gubernatorial vote in the district of the office being sought to 1.5 percent.

Arizona: The 9th circuit court upheld a ruling in which voters wishing to register as Libertarian or Green must write in the party label, whereas the establishment parties have a box on the form that voters can check, if they desire.

After the opinion came out, the Libertarian and Green parties asked for reconsideration, and the court then asked the state to respond, a sign that the court is seriously considering granting a rehearing.

Arkansas: The bad news is that in May, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed S.B. 8 into law, which moves the 2016 primaries from late May to early March, and which moves the petition deadline for new parties to September 2015.

The bill also forces new parties to choose all their 2016 nominees no later than November 2015. No state has ever forced new parties to pick all their nominees for a November even-numbered election an entire year before the election. The Libertarian Party is considering a lawsuit to strike the new deadline.

The good news is that a signature drive funded largely by the Libertarian National Committee finished in June and succeeded in placing all Libertarians who run for partisan offices in 2016, including president, on the ballot.

This is the third straight general election cycle that the LPAR has successfully petitioned statewide to get candidates on the ballot. Before 2012, Arkansas was the only state where the LP had not been able to run partisan candidates, other than for president.

The Arkansas Green Party has announced it will not field any candidates, except for president, in 2016 because of financial constraints.

California: The state supreme court refused to hear the case Rubin v. Padilla, which challenged the top-two primary system. California voters now have fewer choices on their general election ballots for Congress and partisan state office than any country in the world except for China, North Korea, and Vietnam, according to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit will soon file a request with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Florida: An initiative for a top-two primary system similar to those in California and Washington state was started, but appears to be inactive at this time, according to Richard Winger.

Maryland: Bill H.B. 626 had been introduced in the recent General Assembly session to lower the threshold of registered voters for a recognized political party from 1 percent to 10,000. The bill died in committee.

Nevada: S.B. 69 was signed into law in June. It improves the petition deadline for newly qualifying parties from April to June, and improves the independent candidate petition deadline from February to June. This change was made in response to a lawsuit challenging the early deadlines.

The LP is already on the ballot in Nevada. However, this improvement is another demonstration that lawsuits can and frequently do result in better ballot access.

New Hampshire: The U.S. District Court heard the appeal of the New Hampshire LP on July 13, the second of two hearings, of a bill passed last year that prevents party petitioning in the state before Jan. 1 of the election year. Libertarians Rich Tomasso and John Babiarz were the only two witnesses. Their testimony went on for four hours and 15 minutes. The hearing went well. The judge said there will be a decision by the middle of August 2015.

Ohio: It was revealed in a lawsuit that the Ohio Republican Party paid a whopping $592,000 in legal expenses to the law firm that represented the individual who challenged the 2014 Libertarian primary petition for Charlie Earl. Last year, the state chair of the Ohio Republican Party testified that the Republican Party had not been involved in the challenge.

Earl needed 500 petition signatures to get his name on the Libertarian Party primary ballot. Republican Gov. John Kasich successfully challenged the signatures on the basis of an obscure technicality. As a result, the Ohio LP had no gubernatorial candidate on the ballot and lost its ballot access.

An ex-staffer for Kasich arranged for the lawsuit, at the time claiming he would fundraise to cover the costs. Kasich has since announced his bid for president in 2016.

Pennsylvania: In a victory for the LPPA, three ballot access laws were struck down by a U.S. district dourt judge in March: 1) petitioners no longer have to get each petition sheet notarized; 2) voters may now sign for more than one general election petition per office; 3) out-of-state petitioners may now work in the state. The state had until June to appeal the decision but chose not to.

South Dakota: Bill 69, which made it more difficult for non-recognized parties and independent candidates to petition, was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. A petition to bring the new law to referendum, funded primarily by Democrats, was successful. Thus, the law will not take effect in 2016, and voters will have the option to repeal it in the 2016 general election.

The South Dakota LP and its chair, Ken Santema, are also fighting the early deadline set by Bill 69 in court. They are co-plaintiffs in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the state’s early deadline for petitioning, which is now March 1, one of the earliest deadlines in the state.

Texas: Bill H.B. 464 had been introduced to require minor political parties to pay filing fees similar to major political parties. These fees cost as much as $5,000. The bill had passed the House Elections Committee, but did not advance any further.

The Libertarian Party is on the ballot for its 2016 presidential ticket in 31 states. The Green Party is on the ballot in 21 states, and the Constitution Party in 14 states.

Richard Winger contributed to this article.

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About Caryn Ann Harlos

Caryn Ann Harlos is a paralegal residing in Castle Rock, Colorado and presently serving as the Region 1 Representative on the Libertarian National Committee and is a candidate for LNC Secretary at the 2018 Libertarian Party Convention. Articles posted should NOT be considered the opinions of the LNC nor always those of Caryn Ann Harlos personally. Caryn Ann's goal is to provide information on items of interest and (sometimes) controversy about the Libertarian Party and minor parties in general not to necessarily endorse the contents.

4 thoughts on “Bob Johnston and Carla Howell: Okla. Ballot Access Signature Requirement Comes Down From Stratosphere

  1. Mark Axinn

    Now that Oklahoma is so easy, no doubt Andy, Darryl and Paulie can probably do the whole thing by themselves.

    Note to Andy–That is a joke.

  2. Mark Axinn

    Seriously, while the petitioning requirement is far better now than it was in OK, it is still way too high, requiring a $60,000 expenditure just this year.

  3. Richard Winger

    It is essential that this petition succeed, because then we can make a plausible argument to the Oklahoma legislature in 2017 that the 10% vote test for President/Governor should be relaxed.

    But it will be a big help if the Virginia Libertarian Party can get a reduction in the Virginia 10% vote test during the 2016 legislative session. Virginia legislature has its long session in even years, unlike most states. We got a bill to lower the 10% introduced in Virginia this year; I hope all the work around that is a foundation for a bigger push in 2016. The only other state with a 10% vote test is New Jersey.

  4. paulie

    If anyone is willing and able to help call around to grocery stores, gas stations etc and line us up some locations it would be a huge help. Also, we could use some help from anyone with legal training to open up some public locations where we should have a right to petition that the local authoritahs don’t necessarily acknowledge. Already, we had Andy being told by cops at a free downtown street festival to get off the sidewalks even though that is a widely acknowledged legal right. When he told them that they asked him if he is a lawyer, as if only lawyers have constitutional rights.

    The weather has actually not been as hot as I anticipated, and rain and wind have not been significant problems like some other times I have been in Oklahoma, but we’ve been mostly striking out with locations, so if anyone here is willing to help with that (including in ways that don’t necessarily involve travel) please let me know (205-534-1622 if you are not comfortable leaving a public comment).

    If anyone is up for coming out here, for however long or short a time, let me know also, I will put you in touch with Tina (Oklahoma LP Vice chair who is managing the drive). I might could use some rides with someone besides Andy some time, especially if you are a morning person 🙂

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