With SB 76 being sent to the Senate Rules Committee for review, I feel that it is important to contact those members to express how damaging this bill will be to Oklahoma Elections. As such, I am providing you with the letter that I sent to Senator Fields, the author of SB 76. I also sent a similarly worded letter to the other members of the Senate Rules Committee.
So if you are having trouble writing a letter or need some talking points when making phone calls, feel free to use this letter as a launching point.
Dear Senator Fields,
My name is Zachary Knight. I am the Chief Editor of OKVoterChoice.org, the online home of Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform. I am writing to you today regarding the introduction of SB76 to the 2013 Legislative Session. I write to you because I am at a loss for the justification behind an increase in the filing fees to run for office.
Before I get into my investigation into the the number of candidates filing, I would like to express some general thoughts on the economics of such fees. This filing fee, for all intents and purposes, is very much a tax on participating in the political process. As such, when one increases a tax, it has the direct and obvious result of reducing demand for that which is taxed. With that in mind, it would seem that increasing the filing fee needed to run for office would result in fewer people running for office.
Following on to that, I can see no justification for reducing the number of people running for office. If anything, Oklahoma certainly needs the opposite. By looking at the number of people running in previous elections, we can see a steady downward trend in the number of elections.
From 2004 to 2012, the number of November elections for State House seats has dropped from 66 seats to 34, respectfully. On the State Senate side over the same time period, we have seen a drop from 19 to 12, with two elections in that time frame coming in at 11 and 10 seats. In all of those elections, the highest number of candidates on any one ballot was three.
If we increase the filing fees, the result will be to exacerbate those trends.
Looking statewide, I can find no seats that have had more than 3 candidates in recent years. For federal elections, the most I have seen is 4 candidates. Yet, in none of those elections were voters unable to choose a clear winner.
Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform supports efforts to make participation in elections more inclusive. With that mission in mind, we cannot support SB76 and will actively campaign to defeat this bill. We ask you to voluntarily withdraw your bill and work with your legislative colleagues to improve Oklahoma elections to make them more inclusive.
Thank you for your time.
E. Zachary Knight