The Majority Silencing the Minority
Letter to the Oklahoma Gazette
April 4th, 2007
"Why are majority parties keeping the alternate national parties away from Oklahoma voters? Is it the American way - or the Oklahoma way - for a majority to silence a minority?" asked Richard Prawdzienski in a recent Commentary ("Silencing the Minority", March 7th).
Two possible candidates for president recently contacted me. As they plan on running as an Independent and a Libertarian, the first thing we talked about was if they could even get on the ballot in Oklahoma. Due to our restrictive ballot access laws, we were the only state in 2004 with just two choices for president.
Instead of focusing on issues, candidates fight to just give Oklahomans the chance to vote for them. Even the Oklahoman wrote 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." Limited voter choice also extends down the ticket; HALF of state legislative races were UNOPPOSED in our last general election.
The number of signatures required to recognize a political party in Oklahoma was recently more than TEN TIMES the number required per capita in Texas, Missouri, and New Mexico.
Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, wrote, "Missouri liberalized ballot access for minor parties in 1993; Colorado did in 1998; Kansas did in 1984. Those states are happy with what they did; in none of those states has any legislator introduced a bill to make it restrictive again."
When will it be Oklahomaís time to return voter choice to its citizens? It looks like not this year, as recent reform bills were not even allowed a committee hearing. The point of the reform was simply to return the requirements to 5,000 signatures, the number required in Oklahoma from 1924 to 1974.
What about the Oklahoma constitutionís guarantee that "free and fair elections" will be protected? The Oklahoma State Court of Appeals ignored this in a recent ruling (Libertarian Political Organization v. Clingman) that defended the nation's most restrictive ballot access laws.
Some major party politicians may tell you we need to protect voters from having too many choices on Election Day. You can remind those politicians that Schwarzenegger won without a runoff, even though 134 names were on the ballot for governor. Also, Oklahoma Democrats easily handled nine choices in their 2004 presidential primary. More importantly, adult voters should be free to exercise their right to vote for the candidates and parties of their choice, rather than be treated like children.
Many state legislators already recognize the problem of the majority silencing the minority with a biased democratic process. They see that we deserve a fair system that allows greater voter choice.
Visit Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform at www.OkVoterChoice.org
Why was Oklahoma ballot access made so restrictive?
In 1968 the American Independent candidate received 20.3% of the Oklahoma vote. Concerned state politicians voted to restrict third party access in 1974 (with SB 415 by Smith and Elder), perhaps fearing the results of weak Democratic support in 1976 (George McGovern, ended up with only 24% of the Oklahoma vote). See the 1976 court case when American Party presidential candidate, Thomas Anderson, challenged Oklahoma's laws tailored to keep Oklahomans from exercising voter choice.