Press Release: Governor Fallin Signs Historic Bill

On May 13, 2014, Oklahomans For Ballot Access Reform issued the following press release.

On Tuesday, Gov. Fallin approved the first change to Oklahoma’s political party ballot-access law in over four decades. HB2181, authored by Speaker Hickman, is a move towards ballot-access relief for the state’s unrecognized political parties.

HB2181 lowers the petition signature requirement to qualify a political party for the ballot. Since 1974, progressive parties have needed signatures of registered voters equal to 5% of the votes cast for governor or president in the last general election. Beginning Nov. 1, the number drops to 3% of the last vote for governor, only (excluding presidential vote).

To get on the ballot in 2016, petitioners need 24,745 under the new law. (Experienced petitioners aim for roughly double the required number to compensate for invalid signatures.) This is progress for citizens who’ve been shutout of the democratic process dating back to the Nixon administration; however, the change doesn’t relieve the state of its “worst ballot-access law” national title.

“Comparing mandatory petitions to qualify a new party or to have a new party appear on the ballot with the party name, Oklahoma is tied with Alabama now,” said Richard Winger, publisher of BALLOT ACCESS NEWS. “There is also a Rhode Island 5% party petition, a Minnesota 5% party petition, and a California 10% party petition. But none of these are mandatory. There are alternate, much easier methods for a new party to get on the ballot with its party label next to the names of its candidates.”

Winger is considered the leading expert on minor-party ballot access in the country. As he explained, Oklahoma is now tied with Alabama for highest signature requirement to get on the ballot with a party label, other than Democrat or Republican. Petitioning for party status is optional in states with higher requirements.

In OBAR’s 2015 BALLOT-ACCESS BRIEF, we listed our top priorities for ballot-access relief. HB2181 addresses only the first one:

  • Reducing or eliminating the petition signature requirement to form a new party
  • Extending the length of time a new party is recognized
  • Reducing the number of votes required to retain party recognition
  • Reducing or eliminating the petition signature requirement to place an Independent Presidential candidate on the ballot
  • Adding a write-in option to state election ballots
  • Repealing the straight-party voting option on state election ballots
  • Removing the names of Presidential Electors from the ballot

Attached to this release are statements from three progressive parties: Green Party of Oklahoma, Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, and the Justice Party of Oklahoma. Please share far and wide!

Accompanying the press release, the Green, Justice and Libertarian Parties issued the following statements.

Green Party – The Green Party of Oklahoma has contributed time and resources to the effort to regain ballot access for the last 16 years. H.B. 2181 is the result of supreme patience and persistence, and enduring faith in democracy. Without access to the ballot, organizing as an alternative political party to enrich democracy in the state of Oklahoma is virtually impossible. Because the Green Party believes in decentralization of power in government structures, ensuring that voters have a wide scope of choices is critical. Many Oklahomans who are registered voters choose not to vote. As a result, voter participation in the state has been low in the last several elections. This is a major problem for a democracy. We think a central cause is the lack of representation on the ballot. Without candidates who represent the diversity of political perspectives present in Oklahoma’s population, voters who represent these alternative positions are alienated from the polls and effectively disenfranchised. In order for all Oklahomans to enjoy the benefits of their voting rights, candidates who represent their interests must have the right to be included on the ballot. Voter rights and candidate rights are bound together. The changes to the current ballot access laws via HB2181 opens up the possibility for progress towards greater political representation and participation. We still have work to do to return the number of petition signatures required to the original number of 5,000 before the law was changed in 1974. However, after many years of organization and effort around this issue, HB2181 is a longawaited, positive signal that the goal of ballot access for alternative parties in the state will be realized.

Justice Party – The Oklahoma Justice Party would like to thank Governor Fallin for signing HB2181, as well as Speaker Hickman and others for shepherding the bill to her desk. While the bill doesn’t go far enough in returning Oklahoma to its populist roots, it is recognition of the problem and a small step in the right direction.

Libertarian Party – Today marks an important milestone in Oklahoma history; a day in which the state Legislature and Governor not only acknowledged the harmful nature of Oklahoma’s ballot access laws but also made an effort to ease that burden. The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma acknowledges that any movement toward ballot access reform in our state is to be celebrated to some extent. Speaker Hickman should be congratulated for his multiple years of effort and work in realizing this important first step in healing Oklahoma’s broken political and electoral climate. However, we feel the bill that was eventually signed by Governor Fallin maintains the punitive nature of Oklahoma’s current system and in that respect it is both disappointing and frustrating. We hope that the Legislature and Governor recognize that this is only a first step and will continue to pass meaningful reform in coming legislative sessions.

2014 Was A Good Year For Ballot Access Reform; 2015 Will Be Better

Last year, we posted our expectations for the 2014 with hope that great strides would be made for Ballot Access Reform and for Independents. Unfortunately, not all we had hoped to come to pass did, but we did see some major improvements.

First off, the biggest news to come of the year was the fact that 2014 was the first time in Reform history that the Senate and the House agreed on language for party ballot access. HB2134 made it through the house with a 2.5% petitioning requirement. That language was then taken up by the Senate, which actually kept it. Unfortunately, they made other changes that forced the bill to go to a Conference Committee, which promptly sat on it and it died.

Along with that, we gained a great ally in this fight. HB2134 was championed through the Legislature by Representative Jon Echols. He was instrumental in maintaining the 2.5% language throughout the whole process. He is really gungho about ballot access reform and is looking to introduce bills that reform party access as well as presidential petitions and initiative petitions. He is really excited about this and we are going to be working hard on this issue with him.

In other news, SB76, the bill that would have doubled candidate filing fees, was killed by the House. They thankfully recognized that it was a harmful bill and chose to let it die. Hopefully we will not see a repeat of that bill in 2015.

In unfortunate news, Oklahoma adopted the Ethics Commission’s proposed rules for campaign finance reform. To make it worse, the Legislature passed a bill that turned over all campaign finance rule making over to the Commission. This means that 2016 will be a difficult year for Independent candidates to raise as much money as their Republican and Democratic party competition. We would like to see this addressed in the coming session.

In more positive news, HB2134’s original author, Representative Jeff Hickman, was elected to the office of House Speaker. In addition to that, Rep Hickman created a new Ethics and Elections Committee that will be reviewing all bills in those regards. These events will most likely result in a friendlier climate for ballot access reform in 2015.

This year also saw more news organizations joining the fight for ballot access reform. The Tulsa World and News 9 posting positive news and editorials indicating the need for ballot access reform for both political parties and initiative petitions.

In addition to those news organizations, we also have a new ally in the Oklahoma Policy Institute. They have done a lot of work to highlight various policy problems in the state and they have jumped in with both feet in the fight to reform Oklahoma’s election laws including ballot access reform.

Finally, we did not see as many Independent Candidates running for office in the 2014 elections as we had hoped. We also saw record low voter turnout in this past election as well. However, there is good news to come from this. This low voter turn out means that party and initiative petitioners will need some of the lowest number of signatures in many decades.

With all this news, we are extremely positive about 2015. We feel confident that with our new allies in the media, policy watchdogs and in the Legislature this could be the year that the petitioning requirement for political parties will finally be reduced. While we may not get the 5,000 signatures we want and deserve, we will likely reduce it to something actually manageable.

So we wish you all a happy 2015 and we look forward to this being a great year for all supporters of free and equal elections.

Some House Keeping Notes

As part of trying to improve our site, we have taken some measures to limit spam on the blog. As part of this, we installed a new spam filter that is javascript and cookie based. If you have turned off either of these, you may have problems registering and commenting. We are sorry for the inconvenience but we just recently deleted over 5,000 spam user accounts.

On that note, we could not find a clear way to determine between spam registrations and legit ones. So our basis for deletion was if the user account was a mere subscriber and if they never posted a non-spam comment. If this means your account was deleted, we are sorry. Feel free to register again and keep in mind the above requirements.

Our hope is that you will have a spam free experience and we will have a better and easier time at managing our community here.

Thank you for your patience and your support.

Looking Back At 2013 With Hope For A More Independent 2014

OK Voter Choice

2013 was a very good year. Not the year we would have hoped for, but pretty good nonetheless. What made this year so good? Well, lots of things.

For starters, this was the first year of full coverage of Ballot Access Reform issues and other election issues. Our website was pretty limited in previous years, dedicated almost entirely to advocacy for specific bills. While that was certainly noble and definitely needed, there are so many secondary issues and news that we need to cover as well. Additionally, this site went silent for the entirety of the 2011 and 2012 and we missed some very important updates during that time. So we are extremely happy with the ability to bring you up to date news on legislation, political opinion polls, statements by political leaders, and now even candidates for office. We look forward to doing even more in 2014 as we enter an election year.

This past year saw a number of election related bills filed and voted on. We watched what we considered some of the more important ones. Chief among these bills were HB2134 and SB668 which reduced the number of signatures needed to form a new party in Oklahoma. While HB2134 failed to move passed the Rules Committee, SB668 passed the Senate and passed the House Rules Committee. Only Speaker TW Shannon stood in the way of a House vote on either bill. Both bills still have a chance to be heard by the House in 2014. If SB668 gets a House vote with no amendments, it could become law. While it will not provide any real relief to alternative parties, it would be a positive step in the right direction. We would prefer if HB2134 would advance and that the Senate accept its language. After all, the evidence is in favor of real reform.

Another bill we watched with much apprehension was SB76 which doubled the filing fees to run for office. This bill was purely Republican driven and supported. It made it all the way through a Senate vote and a House sub committee vote. Thankfully it never reached a House vote. However, it could still come up for a vote this year and if passed, it could really harm the potential for real elections in 2016. We hope that the House continues to ignore this legislation in 2014.

Another issue we hope gets addressed properly in 2014 is that of campaign finance reform. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has announced proposed changes to this aspect of election law. While we support stripping away the language that penalizes married couples over single individuals, we have a hard time accepting Slater’s proposal to change the contribution limits. His proposal would create severely lopsided elections and specifically harm Independent candidates. This proposal combined with SB76 would pretty much guarantee an severe loss of real challenges in elections.

But 2013 wasn’t just about legislation and the nitty gritty of law. It was also about public opinion. This year saw a number of polls and other evidence that shows that the power of the two duopoly parties are waning. A Record number of people (60% of those polled) believe that we need a major third party. This dissatisfaction with the duopoly parties also reflects on people’s opinion of the current make up of Congress; people think they are doing a terrible job. Additionally, people feel that the Founding Fathers would be disappointed in the way the nation is today. We also saw record low voter turnout in the 2012 Presidential elections, placing Oklahoma as 49th in the nation. All these opinions seem to have resulted in more people in Oklahoma registering as Independent than either of the duopoly parties. We hope to see this trend continue in 2014. We would love to see Independent registration double.

Since 2014 is an election year, we have a number of things to look forward to. Earlier this year we lamented the fact that no one had risen up to challenge Mary Fallin for the office of Governor of Oklahoma. While we did not think that situation would remain, it was something that worried us. Luckily, we were not worried for long. We now know of three candidates and we have heard rumors of others as well. What makes these other candidates worth watching is their history with Ballot Access Reform. Mary Fallin has never taken a stated position on Ballot Access Reform. It was not in her policy statements, she never expressed support or opposition. But the other candidates for her seat have positive ballot access reform history.

The first to announce his intent to run for office is RJ Harris. He will be running as a Democrat and has already placed Ballot Access Reform as part of his mission. He knows the need for it as he has been an Independent and Libertarian for many years.

Next up is Representative Joe Dorman. Dorman will also be seeking the Democratic nomination. While he has not stated any specific support for Ballot Access Reform, he has voted for every Ballot Access Reform bill that came up for a vote in the House.

Then we have former Senator Randy Brogdon, seeking to challenge Fallin as the Republican nominee. While we missed the evidence of his support at first, we quickly found it. Senator Brogdon authored and sponsored legislation that would have greatly eased the burdens of alternative parties as they sought ballot access. This places him as a top contender in that regard.

With three of the current four candidates for governor supporting Ballot Access Reform in some way, we hope to make reform a major part of the campaign for governor in 2014.

Finally, we hope that 2014 will be the year that Independent candidates take a stand and run for office. In previous election years, Independent candidates were a rarity on the ballot. Most years, you could count the number of Independent candidates for state office on a single hand. With less than 40% of Legislative seats making it to a November election, there is plenty of room for Independents to make their voices heard. We went on record agreeing with Representative Mullin in stating that the 2014 elections is where our power lies. If we truly want to see Ballot Access Reform pass, we need to make it an issue at the ballot box. If those in power won’t allow us to run under the party label of our choosing, we need to stand and proudly declare our Independence and run as Independent candidates for office. There should never be an unchallenged seat for any office. As long as there  are, those in power will remain comfortable denying us our rights to freely assemble.

Most of all, we hope that 2014 is the year that Oklahoma chooses to stand firm by its constitution and lives by the creed that “All Elections Shall Be Free And Equal.”

Happy New Year everyone.

Updating The Site; Please Bear With Us

We are currently in the middle of a hosting/content migration. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be adding new content, expanding upon our archives and highlighting the crazy world of Oklahoma Election Law.

For the time being, you can visit the archived site at More importantly, you can visit the petition we have over at, sign it and spread the word that Oklahoma needs Ballot Access Reform now.