While a bill was passed this last year lowering the number of signatures needed to form a new party from 5% of the last vote to 3% of the last vote for Governor, that does little for new political parties and the voters that support them if the 10% vote test to retain party recognition stays in place. To tackle this issue, Senator Loveless has introduced SB896 which would lower the vote test from 10% to 2.5%.
That is a significant drop and is far more reasonable, even though it is not the 1% we support as part of our Ballot Access Brief. Still, this is a fairly difficult task for a new party. In 2012, the Libertarian party failed to meet Arkansas’ vote test of 3% after Gary Johnson polled 1.5% of the vote. In 2014, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas also failed to reach that test. In comparison, all other states surrounding Oklahoma have much easier vote tests and the Libertarian party was able to retain party recognition in each of them.
While any movement in a positive direction is good, and such a sizable reduction, is welcome, we would love to see more. Primarily, we recommend reducing the vote test to 1% of the vote. We also recommend that party recognition should be for 4 years rather than the current 2 years. By switching to a 4 year period of retention, new parties will have more time to form an election strategy to meet the requirement without the looming threat of having to petition again.
Still, we hope that the Senate and the House will pass this bill without amending it to be higher than the 2.5% of the the vote the bill currently has. If it must be amended, it should be amended to lower that vote test.
For now, we recommend that you contact your state Senator and Representative and demand that SB896 passes. This bill is sorely needed in Oklahoma if last year’s reduction of petitions is to have any meaning.