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'High burden': Fighting for ballot access

Oklahoman Editorial 3/21/2007

SAY this for Libertarian party leaders in Oklahoma: They take a back seat to no one when it comes to fighting for their cause.

Libertarians want to see the names of their state and federal nominees on the ballot in our state, and have worked years to try to make that happen. What they're asking the state to do is provide a framework of rules that make achieving that goal a reality.

For the 50 years from 1924 to 1974, state law required that new political parties gather the signatures of 5,000 registered voters in order to get recognized. The law was changed to require voter signatures equal to 5 percent of the total voting in the previous general election for governor or president - based on the 2006 gubernatorial election, that would be more than 46,000 signatures.

Once on the ballot, a new party's candidate for governor or president must receive at least 10 percent of the vote in the next election for the party to remain on the ballot. "They do have a high burden," said Michael Clingman, secretary of the State Election Board.

Too high, the Libertarians argue, although they lost that argument recently before the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. The court disagreed with the party's contention that the regulations are unconstitutionally restrictive.

Jimmy Cook of Tulsa, chairman of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party, says leaders of the two major political parties would argue that current rules were crafted as a way to keep voters from being overwhelmed by candidates on Election Day. Cook's response: Hogwash. "During the 50 years before these restrictive laws were enacted, only four parties were ever on the ballot at one time," he said.

Libertarians aren't deterred by their recent court loss. They're headed next to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. We applaud them for their perseverance and wish them well in their pursuit.

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.