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Libertarians Lose Oklahoma Ballot Access Case in State Court of Appeals

February 28th, 2007
from Ballot Access News

On February 27, the Oklahoma State Court of Appeals upheld Oklahoma’s laws on how a new or previously unqualified party may appear on the ballot. The case is Libertarian Political Organization v Clingman, no. 103,592. The vote was 3-0. The party will appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which may choose whether or not to hear the case. The case had been filed in 2004, the year in which the party submitted 26,462 signatures. The requirement that year was 51,781. No other group submitted any signatures in Oklahoma in 2004, and no one appeared on the Oklahoma ballot in November 2004 for president except President Bush and Senator Kerry. The decision discusses the evidence the party presented, but seems not to accept that the evidence is necessarily true. The decision says, “The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma claims that the statute has a substantial effect upon its associational rights, as shown by the following historical 'facts'."

By putting the word "facts" in quotes, the Court is saying it doesn't necessarily believe the evidence, even though it was uncontradicted and given under penalty of perjury. Those facts, the Court goes on to say, are: “(1) In 2004, Oklahoma allegedly was the only state that had no other political party choices on its presidential ballot besides the Republican and Democrat (sic) parties; (2) When no other parties besides besides the two major parties appear, there is no possibility of voting for a candidate other than a Republican or Democrat for president since Oklahoma does not permit 'write-in' voting; (3) Most other states require a political party to obtain signatures equivalent to 2.5% or less of the total number of voters." The court then says, “Even if we accept all these allegations as true, they do not support Plaintiff’s argument that Oklahoma's ballot access laws are unreasonably (with "unreasonably" in italics) restrictive, severe, or discriminatory."

The Court does not seem to understand that the median petition requirement for new parties in the 50 states is less than 1%. The decision says, "Many states only have a 2.5% signature requirement." Actually, only two states, South Dakota and Tennessee, have a 2.5% petition requirement for new parties.

The decision says the law is not severe because the Libertarian Party was able to comply with it in 1980, 1996 and 2000, and because the Reform Party was able to comply with it in 1996 and 2000. It says the 5% petition requirement is needed "to discourage 'frivolous' candidates, party raiding, and 'sore loser' candidates by spurned contenders." Party raiding and sore losers have nothing to do with the number of signatures required. And as to frivolous candidates, the court fails to say that Oklahoma law permits independent candidates (for all office except president) to get on the November ballot with no petition at all. They merely pay the filing fee, which is never more than $600.

The Oklahoma Constitution says that elections shall be "free and equal", and this case was filed in state court to argue that the State Constitution does not permit Oklahoma to keep all parties and all presidential candidates off its ballot. The decision contains no discussion whatsoever of the Oklahoma Constitutional provision. That part of the Oklahoma Constitution is not even mentioned in the decision.

Instead, the decision says that since the 10th circuit upheld the law in 1988, therefore it must be constitutional. The deadline is 30 days earlier than it had been in 1988, but the Court dismisses this.

Appeals court denies Libertarian ballot restriction claim
The Journal Record by Janice Francis-Smith

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has rejected the Libertarian Political Organization of Oklahoma's claim that Oklahoma's laws unconstitutionally restrict new political parties' access to the ballot.

Oklahoma law requires a group seeking to form a new political party to file a notice of intent with the Oklahoma State Election Board and present a petition signed by at least 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent General Election for governor or for president within a year of filing.

In May 2004, members of the Libertarian Political Organization of Oklahoma, or LPO, filed a petition for registration containing 26,462 signatures – roughly half the amount of signatures required, representing just 1.3 percent of all registered voters in Oklahoma – and so Libertarian candidates were denied access to the ballot in the next election.

LPO charged that the law imposes an "unconstitutional curtailment on associational freedoms ... so as to freeze the political status quo."

However, the Election Board argued that reasonable restrictions are necessary to assure orderly elections, manageable ballots and "an unconfused electorate," while protecting absentee voters and eliminating "frivolous candidates."

The court noted that the purpose of forming a political party is to "gain control of the machinery of state government by electing its candidates to political office. For this reason, the state has a correspondingly greater interest in imposing restrictions, such as the one in question, in order to provide 'assurance that the particular party designation has some meaning,'" reads the appeals court's ruling, citing the ruling from an applicable case as precedent.

Libertarians lose appeal on ballot
March 1st, 2007
The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Libertarian Party has lost its bid to reinstate a 2004 lawsuit claiming state laws on forming a party are unduly restrictive and a violation of the Oklahoma and U.S. constitutions.

The party said the state's ballot access laws required the party to collect an unduly burdensome number of voter signatures on the petition to form a political party.

State law requires a political party wanting official recognition from the state to gather registered voters' signatures equal to 5 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential election.

The state Court of Civil Appeals this week upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit in 2004.

We only get TWO choices?

Oklahoma voters were only TWO choices for President this year... Bush or Kerry.

How can this be?

As of election day 2004...

  • 49 states have Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik on the ballot
  • 36 states have Independent/Reform candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot
  • 28 states have Green Party nomineee David Cobb on the ballot
  • 37 states have Constitution Party nominee Michael Peroutka on the ballot
  • 15 states have Socialist Workers Party nominee Roger Calero on the ballot
Yet, we don't get these choices in Oklahoma. Why?

It's not for lack of third party activity. Libertarians and Greens both have strong state-wide parties and numerous local chapters. Other national parties have members here in Oklahoma as well.

The problem is our election laws. Oklahoma has arguably the most undemocratic ballot access laws in America with petitioning requirements of 51,781 signatures to secure full party ballot access and 37,027 signatures to place a Presidential candidate.

Click here to find out how you can join the campaign for FAIR and DEMOCRATIC ballot acccess laws.