Tulsa Run opportunity for climate awareness and ballot access reform

Jean McMahon as polar bear in the 2007 Tulsa Run

Oklahoma Green Jean McMahon has been doing outstanding work in a very unique way: attending public events in a polar bear costume. The outfit dramatically illustrates the issue of global warming and gets lots of notice wherever Jean wears it.

Today it was the Tulsa Run, for which Jean has been training for over a month. “As soon as I arrived at the starting line,” Jean reports, “Mayor Kathy Taylor came trotting over to say, ‘Hi, remember I saw you at the climate report at TU (University of Tulsa)’.”

Jean and fellow Green Huti Reynolds also collected 42 signatures for the Oklahoma Ballot Reform initiative.

The Tulsa World reports that an Edmond man won the race. We suspect that the polar bear running and petitioning through the city’s streets won a few points from onlookers and run participants alike.

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Oklahoma Greens meet in Stroud for 2007 annual meeting

Meeting in the middle of the state at the legendary Rock Cafe on historic Route 66, the Green Party of Oklahoma’s held its annual meeting for 2007. Members of the party’s coordinating council discussed a number of issues, but the current ballot access petition drive was the primary consideration. Special guest at the meeting was Sean Hough, a Libertarian who is in the state courtesy of the national Libertarian Party, and who is assisting Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform, the coalition group that is conducting the drive.

Read the minutes from the 10/21/2007 GPOK Annual Meeting.

The next meeting of the Coordinating Council, to which any Green or interested person is welcome, will be following the Peace Fest in Oklahoma City on Nov. 11.

OK Greens meet at the Rock Cafe in Stroud
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Ballot Access Petition Filed with Secretary of State

Joni LeViness, GPOK representative to OBAR

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

Oklahoma County Green Party endorses Fannie Bates in special election for County Commissioner

Support for local mass transit initiatives key to Party’s support

The Oklahoma County Green Party decided at its July 17 meeting to endorse Fannie Bates for county commissioner in the special election on August 14.

The election is being held to fill the seat vacated by Jim Roth upon his appointment by Gov. Henry to the state Corporation Commission. Five candidates are vying for the spot, and the one who receives a plurality of votes in the election will serve out Roth’s term.

Noting her long history of grassroots activism around issues of civil rights, social justice and environmental sustainability, Party members were unusually enthusiastic about the endorsement.

“We’re proud to endorse Fannie Bates,” said James M. Branum, OCGP spokesperson. “We are looking forward to seeing a grassroots activist get elected to office and then continue to fight for the people.”

“In particular, we hope that she can bring attention to the pending needless destruction of the Union Station Railyards.”

Ms. Bates has made preserving and utilizing Union Station and associated rail infrastructure the central issue in her platform. She believes, like a majority of metropolitan area citizens in a 2005 MAPS 3 poll, that mass transit should be a priority in the long-term planning of the area, and that existing resources should not be destroyed.

In order to bring attention to this timely issue, Oklahoma County Green Party members are working with other activists and groups to organize a “Save the Rails!” rally at 10 AM on Saturday, August 11 at Union Station, 300 SW 7th, Oklahoma City.

The Green Party of Oklahoma consists of four party locals. In addition to the Oklahoma County party, there are established parties in Tulsa (Green Country Greens) and Cleveland County, as well as the Rural Greens of Oklahoma, which includes the rest of the state.

The Green Party does not have ballot access in Oklahoma and the state Green Party and locals have endorsed progressive Democrats, as well as independent candidates, in the past.

For more information about the Oklahoma County Greens, see http://www.okgreens.org/locals/ocgp or call (405) 445-5408.

MORE INFORMATION:

Oklahoma County Districts map

Fannie Bates campaign web site

Oklahoma City Railways

OKC’s MAPS3 survey shows strong support for mass transit by Brian Brus, Journal Record

A System in Transit by Bryan Dean, Daily Oklahoman (as published by MassTransitMag.org)

Pro-choice success in Oklahoma

This Salon article describes how reproductive rights advocates and medical workers in Oklahoma are working together to keep an unjust anti-abortion bill — S.B. 714 — from becoming law.

Oklahoma activists block antiabortion legislation
Pamela Merritt
How can choice advocates ensure more outcomes like this one?

The Green Party of Oklahoma supports a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, and opposes efforts to make poor and low-income women face even greater obstacles than they already do in making those decisions.