Rasmussen Election Poll Shows Fallin At 45%, Fails To Name Both Independent Candidates

As the Oklahoma Governors Race hits full gear following Fallin’s primary win, Rasmussen held the first of many polls of potential voters. This poll found that Oklahomans are nearly evenly split between the two duopoly party candidates Mary Fallin and Joe Dorman. The poll found that 45% of potential voters favored Fallin while 40% favored Dorman. Of the remaining 15%, 7% favored “someone else” and the other 8% were still undecided.  This electoral favorability of Fallin is also reflected in the 49% of people who approve of the job she is doing in office.

However, this poll is troubling in one major sense. The poll neglected to mention either of the Independent candidates running for governor, Richard Prawdzienski and Kimberly Willis. The act of naming only the major party candidates is rampant through polling services across the country, so it really isn’t a surprise to see it happen here. However, this practice is detrimental to the campaigns of minor party and independent candidates.

Many debate organizers rely heavily on poll data to determine who should be invited to polls. In many debates, this results in only the two major party candidates being in attendance. Even if a poll does include all candidates, the debate organizers will often select only those polls that meet their desired results.

I have reached out to both Independent candidates for comments on this poll. While Kimberly Willis has yet to respond, Richard Prawdzienski had this to say.

A couple Republicans told me don’t waste my time running because I can’t beat Fallin. (Historically incumbents win, also because Oklahoma is a Red state and will vote Republican. One told me that Fallin will win with 68% of the vote, Fallin’s campaign has a million dollars, she can easily get more.) Anyways, I put my $1500 dollars down and am running against her. Win or lose my message will be heard. If I can prevent both the R or D from getting more than 49% my message would be heard around the nation.

If this poll is any indication, Prawdzienski is well on his way to prevent either candidate from winning with a majority of votes. The last time an Independent candidate ran for governor, Gary L. Richardson pulled 14.12% of the vote. The result was that Brad Henry (D) won the election with 43.27% of the vote and a margin of victory of 0.66% over Steve M. Largent (R).

We would hope that future polls would be more inclusive to all candidates in the various elections across the state. We have requested comment from the Rasmussen organizers and are awaiting a response.

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Letter To The Editor Of The Tulsa World Points Out Lack Of Ballot Access Reform

The latest letter to the editor, written by Zachary Knight, points out that the legislature once again failed to pass ballot access reform in the latest Legislative Session. This makes the 3rd ballot access bill to have died in a conference committee.

Another session of the Legislature has ended and Oklahoma is still number one in having the worst ballot access laws in the nation.

Oklahoma has the harshest laws regulating who can form a new political party or who can be on the presidential ballot. All other states have an easier process for both of those actions.

This year, the Legislature considered House Bill 2134, which would have greatly eased both of those processes, but once again was quietly killed it. The bill would have reduced the number of signatures needed to form a new political party by half. It later was changed to reducing the independent presidential petition requirement by half. The bill went to a conference committee where it languished and died. This is the same sort of committee that has quietly killed every ballot access bill in the last six years.

Oklahoma is in sore need of new political ideologies and new leadership outside the current parties. But we will get neither if we keep electing the same people who block efforts to allow those ideologies and leaders access to the political process. We need to reform our laws, but more important, we need to vote out of office anyone who votes to deny political freedom in Oklahoma.

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2014 Session Ends With No Ballot Access Reform Passed

This past Friday, the State Legislature voted to end the 2014 Session a week early. This action resulted in a final resolution on the passage of HB2134 being out of reach. With its updated language being provided by the conference committee just two days before the vote end the session, the bill never had time to gain the proper votes for final passage.

This was precisely the result I feared would happen if the bill went to a conference committee. No ballot access bill has made it passed any conference committee in Oklahoma. Had the House just approved the Senate version of the bill, we would be in a far better place today. I had explained that to Rep Echols, but he felt that the possibility of the bill being challenged on Single Subject grounds to be too great.

For now, Oklahoma is right back where it has been for many many years, with the worst ballot access laws in the nation. If nothing changes in the next two years, we will likely be in exactly the same place we were two years ago, as the only state in the US with two candidates for President on the ballot.

We will be working closely with the Legislature and Rep Echols over the next year to get ballot access reform passed.

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Conference Committee Submits Recommended Language For Final Version Of HB2134

The Conference Committee assigned to HB2134 has submitted its recommended version of HB2134, the ballot access bill. This bill had gone to a conference committee after the Senate greatly amended the bill and the House rejected those amendments. The main problem Rep. Echols and other House members had was the potential for a single subject rule based lawsuit over the Senate version.

In this new version of HB2134, the Conference Committee recommends that the party qualification petition language be stripped from the bill and leaves in tact most of the changes to the Presidential petitions for Independent and unqualified party candidates. However, the bill goes a further than the Senate version by further reducing the signature requirements to 1.5% rather than the Senate’s 2.5%. It also leaves in tact the current deadlines rather than the Senate’s reduced deadlines.

Overall, this would be a positive change. Instead of the little over 40,000 signatures needed under current law to get an Independent presidential candidate on the ballot, a little over 20,000 would be all that is needed. According to Ballot Access News, this removes Oklahoma from the worst presidential ballot access space it currently holds. With this change, it is far more likely that Oklahoma would have more than 2 candidates on the 2016 ballot even if no new parties gain recognition in the state.

As of now, the proposal does not appear to have the approval of the Senate side of the Conference Committee. That side is comprised of Senator Marlatt and a few others. With only one week left in the Legislative Session, it is imperative that we convince Senator Marlatt and the rest of the Conference Committee to act on this proposal.

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Senate Appoints Conference Committee Members For HB2134

The Senate has now appointed its conference committee members for HB2134. On the House side, the conference committee will be made up of the House Rules Committee, consisting of Representatives Russ, Cooksey, Dorman, Floyd, Quinn, Watson and Wright. The Senate side will consist of Senators Marlatt, Griffin, Holt, Ford, Bass, McAffrey. All voted in favor of HB2134 so that there is little fear that they will turn down whatever compromise comes down the pipe.

While ballot access bills have had a poor track record for conference committees in previous sessions, we have a much higher hope for a positive resolution this year. Representative Echols is very much in favor of getting a good bill pushed through this session and he has high confidence that Senator Marlatt will work closely with him in finding a resolution to the differences in the different versions of the bill. While I have some ideas of what the final bill will look like, I am waiting for an official copy of the bill before making any statements in that regards. I will say that it will likely not be 100% what we want from the bill.

We urge you, if your Representative or Senator is a member of either of this conference committee, to please call them and ask them to find a compromise and pass it through. We will be reaching out to all members of this Conference Committee as well.

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The House Rejects The Senates Amendments To HB2134 Moves Bill To Conference Committee

We are still trying to find more information, but it has now come to our attention that the State House has rejected the amendments to HB2134 added by the Senate. Doing so, the bill has now been sent to a conference committee for further review.

Unfortunately, ballot access reform bills have a pretty terrible history when it comes to conference committees. In 2009, HB1072 was passed by both the Senate and the House, but with differing language on the number of signatures. That bill went to a conference committee where it languished and died with no action. In 2011, HB1058 passed the Senate and House with differing signature language. While the house made its recommendations, the Senate never looked at the bill and it died.

We are looking for comments about why the Senate amendments were rejected as we felt that nothing in those amendments were worth letting the bill die. We will provide further updates as we learn more.

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HB2134 Passes Senate With Major Amendments; Mostly Positive

Oklahoma is one more step closer to joining the first world when it comes to ballot access laws. The Oklahoma Senate has finally passed HB2134, the ballot access bill that reduced the number of signatures needed to form a new party from 5% of the last general election to 2.5%. However, the Senate couldn’t resist making major modifications to the bill. Fortunately, they are mostly positive. Yet, with these amendments in place, the bill must go back to the House for a confirmation vote.

The bill passed the Senate with a very narrow vote of 28-16. The Senators voting against the bill were 15 Republicans, Allen, Brecheen, Newberry, Standridge, Anderson, Brown, Schulz, Sykes, David, Shortey, and Treat , and one Democrat, Ballenger. We are sending emails to each of these Senators asking them why they voted against the bill.

On the amendment front, the bill keeps the 2.5% requirement the House passed and adds the following (PDF):

  • It adds a provision allowing political parties to voluntarily terminate their status as recognized parties. This may have been introduced in response to the Americans Elect Party as it had requested removal in many other states. Currently, the only way to lose recognized statues is to not field a candidate for the top ballot line, President or Governor, or to fail to reach the 10% vote test.
  • It adds a new deadline for recognized parties to certify the names of the candidates for President and Vice President. This deadline is 70 days before the general election. The current 90 day deadline for certified Electors is still in place. This gives some leeway for parties to hold Presidential primaries after holding elections for Electors.
  • It reduces the number of signatures for uncommitted and Independent Presidential candidate petitions from the current 3% of the last Presidential election to 2.5% of the same. It is not much of a change but does bring it inline with the party petition process.
  • It reduces the amount of time to gather signatures for Presidential petitions. The current deadline is July 15 and the amendment changes that to July 1. The names of Presidential Electors are due by August 15 rather than September 1.
  • It adds a process that disqualifies Presidential Electors if they fail to vote for the candidate they were pledged to vote for.

All in all, the deadline changes and the faithless elector addition are the only negatives about the amendment. The rest of the amendments are a great improvement over the current process. While this still places Oklahoma at the wrong end of the spectrum for ballot access, we are at least not so far at the bottom. As it currently stands, we would still be one of the toughest states to form a new party and get an Independent Presidential Candidate on the ballot.

There were quite a few questions posed about the bill. Senator Marlatt did a great job at describing why these changes are needed. He described how Oklahoma is one of the worst states in the nation for forming a new party and that we have not had more than two candidates for President for 3 elections. He also talked about how other states in our region have far more lax requirements for forming a new party. Senator Constance Johnson asked a number of questions about the faithless elector provision, but that was the bulk of the questioning.

With the amendments filed and passed, the bill must now go back to the House. We are going to be getting in touch with Rep. Echols to find out what he thinks of the amendments and what his plans are for the bill. If we can get this bill passed as is, it would be an incredible moment for us.

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Our Condolences To Voters In Single Candidate Districts

Now that the 2014 candidate filing period is over, we have a better idea of what the coming months of campaigning are going to be like. Unfortunately, things are not looking up for fans of political engagement.

One of the biggest points of worry is the vast number of seats that have no competition at all. Of course, not everyone feels this is a negative. The Tulsa World has published an editorial in which they applaud the vast number of seats that received no challenge during the filing period.

Filing for political office wrapped up Friday, meaning the campaign season has started.

Before things get too involved in that debate, we would like to take a minute to congratulate the candidates who have already won —— those who brought no opposition in the election.

Whether because their credibility with the public is so substantial, their political presence is so daunting or their opposition so disorganized, a lot of officeholders were guaranteed another term in office, which deserves public acknowledgement.

They close the editorial in much the same way.

But before that gets rolling, we congratulate the ones who have already won. Your willingness to lead the community and serve the people is laudable. You have our thanks and our best wishes.

But is this really something that is worthy of applause or congratulations? When we look at the numbers, we really don’t see anything worth congratulating.

Of the five US Congress seats, one received no competition. District 1 Rep. Jim Bridenstine will be able to take his seat in Washington with no real effort or challenge. On the state level, we have 8 uncontested Senate seats and 50 uncontested House seats. That is 46% of all state legislative seats.

When we add in the 4 Senate and 14 House seats that will be decided in Oklahoma’s closed partisan primaries. This means that 57% of Oklahoma’s legislative seats will be decided without the approval of the vast majority of their voters.

Is it really any wonder why Oklahoma has such low voter engagement?

On a more positive note, there are the three major statewide elections that will allow for a lot of civil engagement with voters. We have very active races for both US Senate seats and the Governor. All three races have candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties and from Independents.

But for all those voters in US Congressional District 1 and all those voters from the state legislative districts with no November election we express our condolences. We wish you the best in coming years. We know it must be difficult to not have any say in who represents you.

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Tulsa World Joins Daily Oklahoman In Expressing Support For Ballot Access Reform

Support for ballot access reform is growing in Oklahoma. For many years, we have fought to reduce the burden posed to those who wish to form new parties in Oklahoma. As of today, Oklahoma’s top two newspapers have expressed their support for easing Oklahoma’s worst in the nation ballot access laws.

The Tulsa World has published an editorial in which they express support for HB2134, the bill that reduces the 5% signature burden to 2.5%.

Currently, parties seeking recognition have to obtain the signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the most recent general election. That currently works out to 66,744 petition signatures.

House Bill 2134 would cut that requirement in half.

Why do they support this measure? Because they recognize that the rising generation is moving further away from the current duopoly parties.

Political thinking is changing. The next generation of voters is not nearly as loyal to the traditional two-party system as their grandparents were. Independent voters are the fastest growing segment of the state voting pool. Many young voters want boutique parties molded to their specific political thinking rather than big-tent parties based on broad principles and old loyalties.

However, the Tulsa World does express some interest in keeping some burden in place. They feel that too low a barrier could lead to a glut of “marginal, schismatic groups”, but that should not stand in the way of reasonable accommodations.

We support lowering the standard for party recognition. We don’t want the number so low that it will produce a flowering of marginal, schismatic groups with no hope of ever electing a candidate, but reasonable accommodations of new modes of political thought could engage new voters and force the two big parties to make sure they are addressing issues of importance to all Oklahomans.

We are not clear exactly where the Tulsa World feels that line should be drawn. Even if HB2134 becomes law, Oklahoma would still have the highest burden in the nation for forming a new party or getting a candidate on the Presidential ballot. No other state has more than a 2% requirement. Additionally, in the decades prior to 1974, where the signature burden was 5,000 signatures, Oklahoma never saw more than 5 candidates for Governor or President. So even something easier than 2.5% would theoretically meet the Tulsa World requirements.

At this point, both the Tulsa World and the Daily Oklahoman have expressed support for these much needed reforms. In December 2012 after Oklahoma’s third presidential race in a row with only two options, an editorial was published supporting ballot access reform.

Colorado’s ballot access law may be too lax, but Oklahoma’s law is at the other end of the spectrum, making it exceedingly difficult for third parties to put a candidate before voters. This year, just as in 2008 and 2004, Oklahomans had only two options for president, the Democrat or the Republican. Twelve years ago, Pat Buchanan managed to get on the ballot here as an independent.

During an appearance in Oklahoma City two years ago, consumer advocate Ralph Nader said our state’s ballot access rules are among the nation’s toughest. “A competitive democracy with multiple candidates, multiple ideas, multiple backgrounds and multiple agendas is going to bring more people out to vote and we’re going to have a better political process,” he said.

Donna Bebo, who ran as a Democrat for the 4th Congressional District seat, put it this way: “Candidates should not win simply because of who they keep off the ballot. They should win on their own merit.” She has a point.

In conservative Oklahoma, Republicans enjoy firm and growing control of the Legislature. They have nothing to fear from providing a voice to others, by lowering some of the significant hurdles now in place for third-party candidates trying to get on our ballot.

Now that Oklahoma’s two largest news organizations have put their editorial muscle behind our efforts, will the State Legislature follow through and actually pass HB2134? Right now, the ball is in the Senate’s court and unfortunately, they have made moves to stall the bill as much as possible. Not only did they wait until the last day it could be heard in committee to pass it to the floor, but they also had the title and enacting clause stricken, a move that ensures it is forced to a conference committee if both are not restored prior to a floor vote. If the bill does get sent to a conference committee it is highly likely that it will die there just as previous ballot access reform bills have done.

We are working hard to ensure that the title and enacting clause are restored prior to a Senate vote, but have not received responses to any of our efforts to reach out to Senator Marlatt.

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Will You Run For Office This Year?

Every 2 years, all 101 Oklahoma State House seats and 24 of 48 Oklahoma State Senate seats are up for election. Yet in 2012, only 36% of those seats, 32 House seats and 12 Senate seats, made it to the November ballot. Why? Because good citizens like you didn’t challenge those in office. In 2012, only 3 Independents ran for the State Legislature. It was the same in 2010. What is the saying? “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men(and women) to do nothing.”

Will you run for office this year? It doesn’t take much to just get your name on the ballot. Only $200 and some time at the capital to file the necessary paper work. How much or little you do after that is up to you. Even if you do the bare minimum of work during the election cycle, you still have the chance to get 5-20% of the vote. In 3-way races (Democrat, Republican and an Independent), Independents tend to get around 5% of the vote. In 2-way races (either a Democrat or Republican against an Independent), the Independent typically gets 15-20% of the vote. If we have more Independents on the ballot, that percentage could increase with the added exposure in the press.

Next week, April 9 – 11, is the candidate filing period. Will you be at the capital?

The State Election Board has provided a handy guide to filing for office.


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