Prior to the 2012 Presidential election, of all the parties that petitioned for ballot access, only one was able to gather the 51,739 valid signatures required. That party was the Americans Elect Party. Unfortunately, the national party never fielded a candidate and attempts by the state branch to place Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on the ballot failed.
This failure to field a candidate for the presidential election has resulted in the State Election Board voting to no longer recognize the Americans Elect Party in the state. This leaves the state of Oklahoma with only the Republican and Democratic parties as recognized political parties. Those 18 who were registered as Americans Elect will have their voter registration changed to show as Independent.
In support of the decision, Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader wrote:
The 10 percent requirement … is applicable to all recognized political parties, and a party’s decision not to field candidates at a general election does not vary the requirement.
Unfortunately, this may not be accurate. According to Oklahoma law, recognized parties are those that meet the following definition:
§26 1 107. Recognized political parties.
Recognized political parties shall include parties whose candidates’ names appeared on the General Election ballot in 1974, and those parties which shall be formed according to law.
If this is accurate, it means that the Democratic and Republican parties are not required to maintain the 10% general election vote requirement because they were the only parties to field candidates in that election. However, this has not yet been applied to those two parties as neither has yet to receive fewer than 10% of the vote. You can expect that if this section stands and one of those parties were to fall below that requirement, there will be legal challenges as this section would seem to violate the 14th Amendment.
None of this makes the fact that once again Oklahoma voters have their choices in coming elections artificially restricted any easier to swallow. The failure to not just field a candidate, but to also require those candidates that are on the ballot meet a 10% vote requirement weakens voter confidence in the state of Oklahoma. It makes it far more difficult for a political party to build a successful presence in the state if that party is not given more than one election to build a base of support.
This news highlights the need of passing ballot access reform happen soon. Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and demand that they pass Ballot Access Reform this coming Legislative session.