Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Party Coalition Seeks Easier Access to Ballot

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Party Coalition Seeks Easier Access to Ballot

Article excerpt

Splinter political parties have not flourished in the structure of Oklahoma's election process over the years partly, some say, because of the state's restrictive laws on their access to the ballot.

But how much of a factor is that? Those who achieved ballot eligibility consistently have failed to maintain even minimal support to stay there. To get a political party on the ballot, Oklahoma law requires a number of signatures equal to 5 percent of the last presidential or gubernatorial vote, which meant more than 73,000 signatures in 2006.

Once on the ballot, a political party must receive 10 percent of the vote at the general election in a statewide race to remain ballot eligible.

A coalition of splinter parties called Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) has filed to circulate an initiative petition asking to ease those restrictions. The group is composed of the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties and an alliance of independent voters.

The plan is to return the requirement to get on the ballot to 5,000 signatures. To stay ballot eligible, the plan asks for 1 percent of the general-election vote in a statewide race, which was the requirement from 1924 to 1974.

The Libertarian Party has been on the ballot intermittently since the 1960s. The last time was the 2000 presidential election in which its candidate received 6,608 votes out of 1.234 million, trailing a Reform Party candidate. Neither reached even the proposed minimum 1 percent.

In the 1920s and '30s there was a Populist Party and a Socialist Party that actually elected a member to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Neither lasted.

Rarely has the outcome of a statewide race been impacted by a splinter party. In 1970, the American Party candidate, conservative Ruell Little, probably caused the re-election defeat of incumbent Republican Gov. Dewey Bartlett, who lost to Democrat David Hall by about 3,000 votes. Many believe a majority of Little's 24,295 votes would have gone to Bartlett. Strong independent candidates have been a different story in recent gubernatorial races. In 1994, Democrat 3rd District U. …

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