Joni LeViness, OK Green and secretary of Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) speaks at a press conference announcing the group’s petition campaign to bring the question to Oklahoma voters next year.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) filed today to circulate an initiative petition to put a question on the 2008 ballot. The initiative seeks to reform Oklahoma’s ballot access laws, considered the most restrictive in the country.
“It is time to hear what Oklahoma voters think about our state’s biased electoral system,” said OBAR Chairman Matthew R. Jones. “With half of our state legislative races unopposed last November, we believe Oklahomans will support more voter choice.”
“OBAR is about giving people a voice again,” said Joni LeViness, member and OBAR secretary. “With more voices in Oklahoma politics, comes the chance that voters will hear about issues relating to them. OBAR’s not so much about giving political parties a voice as it is about getting people involved in what’s supposed to be a democracy. I expect we’ll see a broad range of support!”
OBAR will collect approximately 90,000 signatures over the next 90 days, and plans to integrate petitioning with an awareness campaign, including T-shirts for petition circulators and information cards for signatories.
“Although our effort is receiving nationwide attention, our petitioning will rely heavily on our members volunteering. This is a real grassroots effort,” said Jones.
Jimmy Cook, OBAR Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, believes that the citizens’ movement will be well-received. “I’m surprised that this hasn’t been tried before, considering the positive things I’ve heard from people about the proposal,” he said. “Oklahomans are tired of having politicians dictate who they can and can not vote for. This petition would give voters the ability to choose.”
To form a new political party, Oklahoma law currently requires signatures equal to five percent of the last presidential or gubernatorial vote, which meant over 73,000 signatures for 2006. This number was 10 times the per capita requirement of many neighboring states, including Texas, Missouri, and New Mexico.
The initiative would return the number of signatures for recognition of political party back to 5000, the number required in Oklahoma from 1924 until 1974. This would make Oklahoma the 30th state to require 5000 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.
“To hold elected officials accountable, we need a process that engages Oklahoma citizens,” said Clark Duffe, Chairman of Oklahoma Coalition of Independents (OKIES). “Ballot access reform is part of OKIES’ larger goal of having more competitive races.”
“Oklahoma was the only state where voters were limited to just two choices for president in 2004,” said Jones. “Even though the winner-take-all system tends toward two parties, we believe Oklahomans voters deserve more choices.”
Support for ballot access reform has come from varied, and even unexpected sources recently. The Oklahoman has published editorials endorsing the idea. The 2007 Oklahoma Republican Party platform states: “We support less restrictive ballot access for all political parties and candidates.”
Similar ballot access questions have passed in Florida and Massachusetts.
OBAR is a coalition of the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties and the Oklahoma Coalition of Independents, unified with the simple goal of making laws fair for new political parties. Visit OBAR Web site