Small Political Parties Seek Easier Ballot Access

Friday, September 14th 2007, 4:08 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A coalition of small political parties launched an initiative petition Friday to change Oklahoma law and give them easier access to Oklahoma election ballots.

Representatives of the Constitution, Libertarian and Green parties as well as independents said that if ultimately approved at the ballot box, the petition will give Oklahoma voters more choice and give the parties a better foothold to make changes in Oklahoma government.

``Hopefully, in future years we will have more candidates to choose from,'' said Jimmy Cook of Claremore, chairman of the Libertarian Party in Oklahoma and vice chairman of Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform.

``The state question being proposed today will open up the election process and will improve state government by the reintroduction of competition at the ballot box,'' said Thom Holmes of the Constitution Party.

Supporters appeared outside the Secretary of State's office where the petition was filed wearing T-shirts that declared Oklahoma's to be the most restrictive ballot access rules in the nation.

Currently, a political party must obtain the signatures of registered voters equal to 5% of the total vote in the last gubernatorial or presidential election in order to gain official recognition and ballot access. That would have meant over 73,000 signatures last year.

Political parties must also receive 10% of the vote in the next general election in order to retain recognition.

The result is that in 2004, Oklahomans had only two choices for president, a Democrat and a Republican, when 46 other states had four choices or more, said Matthew Jones, an independent from Stillwater and chairman of the coalition.

Last year, 53 of the 101 seats in the state House of Representatives _ more than half the districts in the state _ were unchallenged, Holmes said.

``This lack of competition allows our public servants to be re-elected without even having to campaign,'' he said. In addition, less than half of eligible voters in the state participate in elections.

The initiative petition proposes to change the law to require just 5,000 signatures for recognition and ballot access for lesser known political parties, often referred to as third parties.

The coalition also wants the parties to retain official recognition if they get just 1% of the vote for any statewide office in any two consecutive general elections.

The proposed State Question 738 would return state ballot access laws to the way they were between 1924 and 1974.

``It's about everyone's voices being heard,'' said Joni LeViness of Tulsa, an Oklahoma delegate to the national Green Party convention.

The coalition must collect at least 74,117 valid voter signatures over the next 90 days in order to be accepted by the Secretary of State. The petition will then be forwarded to the state Supreme Court, which will resolve any protests or objections to the petition.