Independent Voters Only Voter Registration To Gain From 2015

voter_registrations_2016Every year, the Oklahoma Election board releases statistics on Oklahoma voters and which party to which they belong. Last year, we noted that Independent registrations had the largest rate of increase over the Democratic and Republican parties. This year, that trend has continued.

In fact, if you look at the change from 2015 to 2016, Independent registrations were the only group to have an increase while overall registrations fell. Looking at a two year change, Republicans also had an increase in registrations, yet it was a smaller increase than Independent registrations.

This year, the Democrats are at an all time low of 832,059, Republicans are at 880,130, and Independents have reached 266,605. Interestingly enough, Americans Elect, which is no longer a political party but a political organization, grew from 9 members in 2015 to 13 in 2016.

These trends show a change in political ideals in the Oklahoman voter. For years, voters have been identifying less and less with the Democratic and Republican parties and showing support for the inclusion of a third party in US politics. These voter registration statistics indicate that Oklahoma voters feel much the same way.

A First In Oklahoma: Democrats Vote To Allow Independents To Vote In Primaries

For the first time in Oklahoma history, one of the duopoly parties have voted to allow voters registered as Independents to vote in their primaries. This past Saturday, an overwhelming majority of Democrats voted at their State Convention to allow Independents to vote in all Democratic primaries over the next two years. This means that Independents will be allowed to vote in the upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary as well as the primaries for all state and local elections.

Oklahoma has a closed primary with an option for parties to choose to open them to Independent voters. Since this became law, neither the Republican nor Democratic parties have made that choice. With this vote, that has changed.

State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Hammons had this to say about the vote:

Today Oklahoma Democrats from across Oklahoma came together for a historic vote to allow Independent voters access to Democratic primary ballots in Oklahoma. Democrats have opened their arms in allowing Independent voters access to have a voice in deciding candidates before they are chosen for them.

If you have hopes that the State Republican Party will choose to follow suit, you might not want to get your hopes up. State Republican Party Chairman Randy Brogdon said Democrats were making a mistake.

He predicted the change would water down the Democratic Party’s base, and said he had no interest in making a similar move in the Republican Party.

“A majority of the independents have come from the Republican party primarily because we haven’t done an excellent job of promoting Republican principles of limited government and lower taxes,” Brogdon said. “We want to give them a reason to come back.”

How this choice will “water down” the Democratic party base is unclear.

This will be a great election for Independent voters. Representatives from both the Oklahoma Libertarian and Green parties have said that they will allow Independents to vote in any primaries they may have in the coming election. If the party petitions for the Libertarian and Green parties are successful, then Independents will have 3 primaries to choose from.

Libertarian, Green parties to launch joint petition drive, asking for volunteers

HELP WANTED!

The newly-formed Libertarian/Green Coalition is asking for volunteers to help get Green and Libertarian candidates on the 2016 election ballot, with their respective party labels.

Each party must gather the state’s required number of signatures – 24,745 – by March 1, 2016 to become ballot-qualified. Party leaders believe that, by working together, they can attract and coordinate enough petitioners to ensure that Oklahomans get their first alternative-party options since 2000.

Anyone interested in joining this historic endeavor is invited to a free, volunteer petitioner’s training event, from 1 – 2 p.m. Saturday, June 20, in Rooms A-B on the fourth floor of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, 300 Park Avenue, in Oklahoma City. We’ll have T-shirts, custom-made for this campaign, available to attendees who donate to the cause. (Donations will help cover our room reservation and our printing costs for forms and shirts.)

Read and share the PRESS RELEASE. Please join our Facebook event!

Libertarian Party Of Oklahoma Seeks Ballot Access

This past Friday, the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma filed the necessary form needed to begin collecting signatures toward ballot access for their party. The Libertarian Party has not been a ballot qualified party since 2000 and if they can succeed, they will be able to place their candidate for President on the ballot in 2016.

According to their press release, they are aware of the difficulty ahead of them.

The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma recognizes the fact that current Oklahoma law requires us to gather well over 41,000 valid signatures. This process requirement, while the lowest raw signature requirement in Oklahoma in over 20 years, is still one of the most strict party petitioning laws in the US.

They also retain hope that the legislature will pass HB2181 which would greatly reduce the signatures they need to gather.

The OKLP is starting this process in the hope that the Legislature does something in hasn’t been able to do since 1974, voluntarily reduce the petition burden for new political parties. This year, Speaker Hickman has introduced HB2181 which would reduce the number of signatures needed to form a new party from the current 5% of the last general election to 1% of the last election for governor. We support this bill and are seeking its passage into law this year.

If HB2181 is passed and signed into law, our petition requirement would fall from 41,000 signatures to just over 8,200 signatures. This brings Oklahoma closer in line with the national and regional averages for party petitioning.

They are also asking for help in gathering signatures. They have set up a page with instructions on how signatures need to be gathered on their website.

We are excited by this news and wish the Libertarian Party, and any other party that is going to seek ballot access the best of luck.

Oklahoma House Forms New Committee On Elections And Ethics

In an announcement on Facebook, Representative Paul Wesselhoft, Republican District 54, announced that he had just been appointed to a new committee in the House.

It is my honor and responsibility to be appointed by Speaker Hickman to the Chairmanship of an important new Committee on Elections and Ethics.

I have several reform bills that I hope to pass that will improve the election process and the ethics and requirements of candidates.

This will be a busy year for me; and I am eager to make a significant contribution to Oklahoma. If you have suggestions, I am always open to them. I am looking for partners, you, to help me reform elections & ethics. Thanks.

This is a first for Oklahoma as far as I know. With this committee, all election and ethics related bills will be going to his committee. This means that a lot of bills, such as those seeking to reform Oklahoma’s ballot access laws, will be going here rather than to the Rules Committee.

While it is still too early to see what kind of impact this will have in the coming session, it is a huge step forward. We also will be watching Rep Wesselhoft in this position. While he is active in a number of independent groups on Facebook, he has a mixed record when it comes to ballot reform bills. He voted for HB2134 in 2014, but he voted against similar bills in 2011 and 2009.

On the plus side, the Vice Chair is Representative Donnie Condit, Democrat District 18. He has voted for HB2134 in 2014 and the 2011 bill. He was not in office when the 2009 bill was up for a vote. This also means that the committee has at the start a good bi-partisan mix of representation.

We will keep you posted on what happens in this committee.

Oklahoma Libertarian Convention Highlights Personal Freedom And Citizen Action

Zachary Knight Speaking At The Oklahoma Libertarian ConventionThis past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the 2014 Oklahoma libertarian Convention. This meeting had a number of speakers as well as the election of new officers.

During my speech, I spoke about Oklahoma’s terrible ballot access laws and the effort we have been making to reform those laws to return them to their pre-1974 status. In this, I highlighted the gradual improvement in the attitude of the Legislature towards reform. I then called for more Independents to run for office. The reason for this call to action is that the Legislature will not move unless pushed in that direction and the best way to do so is to run for Legislative seats. Those in office need to work for their seat and we need to show them that the only way to do that is to pass reform. I will post a more in depth treatment of my speech soon.

Another set of speakers was Norma Sapp and Porter Davis who spoke about their work to get legalization of marijuana passed. In response to their work, the Oklahoma Libertarian Party voted to officially support legalization of marijuana in Oklahoma. There was one other aspect of their speeches that has a greater bearing for OBAR in that they discussed the power of the citizen initiative. They are working within several cities to put ballot measures in front of voters to decriminalize marijuana within the city borders. These citywide initiatives are often far easier to enact than their statewide counterparts. Imagine what we could do within individual cities to change the way the city leadership is elected to make them more fair.

Charles Key Spoke about the rise of the police state but a significant portion of his speech was dedicated to transparency in government. In this he spoke at length about the Calendar Committee that Speaker Shannon created last year. He spoke about how the process before was controlled by a single individual, the Speaker of the House, and how the Calendar Committee was meant to provide more openness. He then spoke about how the openness promised really never surfaced and that the committee still had the weakness of a single person being able to control which bills were heard. He then followed that by stating that the removal of the Calendar Committee this year was a step backwards even though its creation was not a much of a step forward.

The final speaker was Geoffrey Neale the Chair of the National Libertarian Party. In his speech he spoke about how sometimes we need to think smaller when it comes to building a reputation in elections. He said we need to be running for School Boards, Water Boards, Town and City Council seats. These lower level seats are often non-partisan and are far easier for Independents to win. By seeking and winning these seats, it becomes far easier for us to build a reputation that can carry us for state level seats. He also recommended two books that anyone who wants to run for office should read, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and The Art of War.

The final round of business was the election officers and other business. In this, Steve Long was elected as Chair of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party. He has worked as the Treasurer for the party for the last two years. The party also voted in support of legalization of marijuana and to purchase a sponsorship at Southland Liberty Fest in April.

You can visit their website to learn more about the Oklahoma Libertarian Party. Or you can follow them on Twitter @OklahomaLP

Full Disclosure: I am a member of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party. I was elected as Secretary of the party at this convention.

 

National Popular Vote Bill Passes OK Senate On Bi-Partisan Lines; Concerns Over Lobbyist Activity Raised

Last week, the Oklahoma Senate passed SB906, the National Popular Vote Bill, on a bi-partisan vote of 28-18. All 12 of Oklahoma’s Democratic Senators voted for the bill and 18 Republican Senators voted against it.

This bill would change the way Oklahoma assigns its seven electoral votes from the current popular Oklahoma vote getting all votes, to a system in which the winner of the national popular vote gets all of Oklahoma’s electoral votes. This proposal has its supporters and its detractors with many concerns raised. We highlighted a few of those concerns last year when this bill was introduced. In that article we wrote:

The truth is that yes, Oklahoma would be further marginalized by Presidential candidates in the event of a national popular vote. However, that wouldn’t be changing much from the current situation. As NewsOK states, Oklahoma has been pretty much a Presidential flyover state since the 60s.

We further wrote of a better alternative, that of proportional allocating of electoral votes based on the percentage of voted earned by each candidate.

However, there is a different concern raised by some members of the House, that of the amount of lobbying taking place to get this bill passed. Representative Jason Murphey recently wrote about the tremendous lobbying effort from out of state interests who want this bill passed. He wrote about how those lobbyists are taking Oklahoma Legislators on all expense paid trips to resorts in order to get them to vote for the bill.

To this end, the national popular vote group invaded Oklahoma with a high powered team of very sophisticated lobbyists. They wisely kept the issue under the radar and away from the eyes of the public while aggressively trying to convince legislators by using a series of convoluted logic for why this proposal would benefit conservatives.

They financed a series of out-of-state junkets to various vacation sites where they explained this logic against an exotic backdrop of recreational events.

Having succeeded in the Senate, they are preparing to go on the offensive in the House. On March 20, they will finance an all-expenses-paid junket to St. Croix. In this exotic venue, far away from the eyes of the public, they will attempt to convince Oklahoma House members to vote for the bill. Just a few days after they return to the mainland, House members will vote on the proposal.

These all expense paid trips were further confirmed with a letter published by Batesline. In this article it was confirmed that Fair Vote, a 501(c)(3) organization is behind these trips.

This lobbying effort calls into serious question the ability of the Oklahoma Legislature to make decisions based on the will of the people. If those Senators who voted for this proposal did so because of the free vacation they were given rather than because the people of Oklahoma want to see it passed, then they are not doing their jobs.

If the way Oklahoma allocates its electoral votes is to change, it should be done by the will of the people not by the will of out of state lobbyists buying legislators all expense paid vacations. We will continue to watch these developments and the further progress of this bill.

 

Lawsuit Challenging Voter ID Law Gets The Ok From The Oklahoma Supreme Court

In 2010, a majority of Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure requiring voters to show an approved ID before being allowed to vote. Supporters of the law claimed that it was needed to prevent voter fraud, but have never presented much evidence supporting the idea that this prevents any kind of known fraud.

Those opposed to the law spoke at length about how the law would disproportionately harm minorities, the elderly and the poor and be a barrier to their ability to cast a vote in elections.

Shortly after passing, the law was challenged by several Oklahoma voters in court. The question of standing, whether the person challenging the law has a reason to believe they are harmed by it, went all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. When reviewing the case, the Court ruled that Delilah Christine Gentges, the person challenging the law, does have standing to sue the state over it.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that a Tulsa County voter has legal standing to challenge the state’s Voter ID law.

The Supreme Court’s order sends the case back to Oklahoma County District Judge Lisa Davis to decide Gentges’ challenge to the law, which requires voters to prove their identity before voting.

While the lawsuit is far from resolved, this is a major step in the attempt to overturn the law. Had the Court ruled that Gentges did not have standing to sue, then the case would have taken a major blow and would have had to start again with a new client or argument.

It will likely be several more years before this issue is completely resolved, but there are many other challenges across the US with many resulting in Voter ID laws being overturned. One recent case was in Pennsylvania, in which the court ruled that state’s law to be unconstitutional.

This will be a case to watch for all people who believe in free and fair elections.

Ballot Access Reform Bill Author Elected To House Speaker

Representative Jeff HickmanYesterday, House Republicans met and elected a new House Speaker to replace outgoing Rep. TW Shannon who stepped down from the position to pursue a US Senate seat. This is great news for proponents of Ballot Access Reform for two reasons.

The first reason is that Rep Shannon was a key figure in blocking ballot access reform from a vote in 2013. We were never clear on his reasons but it doesn’t matter much at this point. He has stepped down as Speaker as he seeks the Republican nomination for the US Senate.

The second reason is that his new replacement is none other than HB2134’s author Representative Jeff Hickman. HB2134 is the bill that reduces the signatures required to form a new party from te current 5% requirement to a flat 5,000.

This is certainly a unique opportunity for ballot access reform in Oklahoma. I am unaware of any time in the past where the Speaker of the House was also a principal author of a ballot access reform bill. We certainly hope that Rep. Hickman will help insure that real reform advances through the House this year.

We ask all supporters of ballot access reform to send words of encouragement to the new Speaker and ask that HB2134 be heard on the floor.