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.