On April 22, 2015, the Oklahoma Senate passed HB2181 with the language that came out of the Rules Committee. There was no discussion or debate. The bill then went back to the House for consideration of the Senate amendment.
On May 6, the House held a vote on the Senate amendments and voted to approve them with a unanimous 83-0 vote. So with that, the bill goes to the governor for final approval.
This is a major step in Oklahoma ballot access reform. For years, the Oklahoma Legislature has stalled on ballot access reform because the House and Senate could not agree on language. Additionally, the Oklahoma Legislature has not voluntarily eased ballot access since they changed the law to its current language in 1974. The only times that access had been eased had been as an obligation due to a court ruling.
With the passage of this bill, new political parties will need only 3% of the last governor election or 24,745 signatures to form a new party. This bill also removes the presidential elections from the equation which will end the fluctuation in petition requirements between elections.
However, this bill is far from what Oklahoma voters deserve. We at Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform still feel that 5,000 signatures is the only just petition requirement. The change from 5,000 to 5% was completely unjustified and ultimately deadly to political competition in Oklahoma. While we approve of any step in the right direction, the Legislature still has a long way to go before Oklahoma has truly free and equal elections.
To learn more about improvements that need to happen in Oklahoma, you can read our Ballot Access Brief.