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.