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  Initiative Petition to Give More Choices to Oklahoma Voters

For Immediate Release August 17th, 2007
Contact: Michael Hammer 405-714-5060 Hammer@OkVoterChoice.org

Taking action to open Oklahoma’s ballot to third parties, Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) plans to circulate a petition that will put a question on the 2008 ballot.

“We are looking forward to giving more choices to Oklahoma voters, and with the help of our many supporters, we are confident it will be a success,” said Matthew R. Jones, an Independent and OBAR Chairman.

Oklahoma was the ONLY state with just two choices for president in 2004. Voter choice suffered again in the 2006 general election, when HALF of state legislature races went unopposed. This lack of voter choice is due in part to Oklahoma’s ballot access laws, considered the most restrictive in the nation.

To form a new political party, Oklahoma law currently requires signatures equal to 5% of the last presidential or gubernatorial vote, which meant over 73,000 signatures for 2006. This number is TEN TIMES the per capita requirement of many neighboring states.

“Oklahoma voters are ready for more choices. Oklahoma Democrats easily chose from among nine Democratic presidential candidates in 2004. Shouldn’t voters in the general election also enjoy more than two choices?” asked Matthew R. Jones.

This initiative would return the number of signatures for recognition of political party back to 5,000; the number required in Oklahoma from 1924 until 1974. This would make Oklahoma the 30th state to require 5,000 or fewer signatures for a new political party or independent presidential candidate.

The initiative would also make the requirements more reasonable for a party to demonstrate support and stay on the ballot. Current law requires that a party’s presidential or gubernatorial candidate receive 10% of the vote to maintain party status. The initiative would lower the vote requirement to 1% and apply it to all statewide races.

“The question of voter choice will now go directly to the citizens of Oklahoma,” said Thom Holmes, Oklahoma Constitution Party Chairman.

OBAR hopes to collect over 90,000 signatures this fall and expects success in the petitioning process as well as at the ballot:
• Supporters have already pledged to collect OVER HALF of the needed signatures.
• An anonymous donor will donate $25,000 once OBAR has raised $50,000.
• OBAR is using many resources to mobilize fundraising: letters, email, phone calls, online donating, as well as our network of volunteers.
• Similar ballot questions passed in Florida and Massachusetts.

“Our timing is fortunate. Dissatisfaction with the major parties seems to grow everyday,” said Jimmy Cook, OBAR Vice-Chairman and Libertarian Party of Oklahoma Chairman.

OBAR is a coalition of Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Party and the Oklahoma Coalition of Independents, unified with the simple goal of making laws fair for new political parties. Working for many years, OBAR has helped introduce numerous bills into the legislature, all of which were denied even a committee vote.

“Who would want to go on record against the voters’ right to a democratic choice? So state politicians have simply chosen to ignore the problem,” said Clark Duffe, Oklahoma Coalition of Independents Chairman.

In the most recent ballot access lawsuit, the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma was refused an appeal hearing with the State Supreme Court this year; even though the state Constitution guarantees “free and equal” elections. Joni LeViness, OBAR secretary and Green Party member, said, “OBAR initially hoped for help from the legislature or courts, but now we believe the best way to open up the democratic process is taking the issue directly to the people.”

Support for ballot access reform stretches broadly across the political spectrum. The 2007 Oklahoma Republican Platform states: "We support less restrictive ballot access for all political parties and candidates.” (III G. 6.) Organizations like Common Cause Oklahoma and the Progressive Alliance Foundation also support reform.

Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, wrote about Oklahoma’s problem: “This is about VOTER rights…People have a right to vote for the candidate of their choice. It's isn't a free election otherwise. Even the former president of Iran has criticized the U.S. for our lack of freedom in our elections. It would help the U.S. image worldwide if Oklahoma would fix this dreadful blot.”

www.OkVoterChoice.org
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10 REASONS why Oklahoma’s ballot access laws are broken, an initiative petition is the way to fix them, and Oklahomans are ready for more voter choice.

1.) Oklahoma was the ONLY state limited to just two choices for president in 2004.

2.) HALF of Oklahoma’s state legislative races were unopposed in the 2006 general election.

3.) Oklahoma’s ballot access law for third parties is the MOST RESTRICTIVE in the nation: requiring over 73,000 signatures to form a party in 2006 and nearly 50,000 signatures for 2008. This was TEN TIMES the recent per capita requirement in Texas, Missouri, and New Mexico.

4.) Oklahoma is one of only FIVE states that do NOT allow write-ins.

5.) According to a recent Ballot Access News article, Oklahoma is also the most restrictive for Independent presidential candidates.

6.) The Oklahoma legislature has demonstrated it will ignore reforming our restrictive ballot access laws, with four reform bills introduced since 1999 and all denied even a committee hearing.

7.) The Oklahoma Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal this year on a ballot access case, even though Oklahoma’s Constitution says, "All elections shall be free and equal." Section III-5

8.) The Ballot Access Reform initiative petition would return the number of signatures to 5,000 to form a new political party, the requirement from 1924 to 1974. This would make us the 30th state requiring 5,000 signatures or less this year for new parties or independent presidential candidates (see below). It would also make it easier for a new political party to demonstrate support and stay on the ballot.

9.) During the fifty years the 5,000 signature requirement was in place, only four parties, including the Republican and Democratic Parties, were on the ballot at any point in time.

10.) Oklahoman’s are ready for increased voter choice. Oklahoma Democrats chose from nine presidential candidates in 2004 and both parties will have near that many choices next year.

Ballot access reform already has significant support from many sources:

-The state’s largest newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman, said in an editorial, “We agree that it’s too tough for an independent party to get a presidential aspirant on the ballot and reform is needed.”

-Recognizing the need for more competition at the ballot, the 2007 Oklahoma Republican Party Platform states: “We support less restrictive ballot access for all political parties and candidates.” (III.G.6.)

-An Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs article says "It is surprising that a state with Oklahoma's populist tradition...is the nation's most restrictive state in terms of ballot access."





Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, wrote about Oklahoma’s problem: “This is about VOTER rights…People have a right to vote for the candidate of their choice. It's isn't a free election otherwise. Even the former president of Iran has criticized the U.S. for our lack of freedom in our elections. It would help the U.S. image worldwide if Oklahoma would fix this dreadful blot.”

Mr. Winger also wrote, “…in 29 states, the petition for minor party or independent presidential candidates is at or below 5,000. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Also DC, which makes 30 if one counts DC.”

Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR, www.OkVoterChoice.org) is a coalition of the Oklahoma Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties and many Independents.