In Which We Respond To Comments To Our Letter To The Editor

Over the weekend, we had a letter to the editor published to both NewsOK and at the Tulsa World. Both sites, published the letter with little modifications. The letter itself is mostly a rehash of our earlier article about Oklahoma’s low voter turnout and its impact on future petitions. It also called for real reform to pass.

However, there was one problem. I wanted to respond to a comment on the Tulsa World which I felt poorly reflected on the current petitioning climate. Tulsa World reader J. Lee wrote:

It appears that many people don’t really care what happens. But that is absolutely no reason to lower the party petitioning burden especially to what it was 40-50 years ago since the population has increased over a million since that time.

Any entity which lowers it standards to appease a few will eventually be left with no standards.

What J. Lee wrote here does a real disservice to those seeking to form a new party in Oklahoma. It is based on the false premise that Oklahoma’s petitioning laws and the change in 1974 was based on some actual reasoning based on population. That is not true at all.

The problem with this is that the Tulsa World’s commenting policy prevents me from responding to this comment directly. The Tulsa World wants me to pay nearly $200 just to comment on articles of interest. That is not happening. So instead, I am responding here in the hopes that interested people will read it and misinformation will be cleared away. If anyone out there has a subscription or still has commenting enabled because they have not reached their monthly ration of articles, feel free to respond to J. Lee with the following:

Let me lay out a few facts for you. I hope that I won’t have to explain any of this too much.

Population of Oklahoma:
1970 – 2,559,063
2010 – 3,751,351
Percent Changed – 46.6%

Voting Population of Oklahoma:
1972 Presidential Election (last election before new rules went into effect) – 1,057,396
2012 Presidential Election (most recent similar election) – 1,334,872
Percent Changed – 26.2%

1974 party petitioning requirement – 5,000 signatures or 0.47% of the 1972 vote
2014 party petitioning requirement – 66,744 or 5% of the vote cast in 2012
Percent Changed – 1,235%

If we wanted to adjust the number of signatures needed to form a new party based on population, then we would have this amount:
5,000 plus a 46.6% change = 7,330 signatures today.

However, if we base it off of voting population, we would get this number:
5,000 plus a 26.2% change = 6,310

Both of those calculations are far far smaller than the current signature requirement that is 1235% higher than it was in 1972.

So do you want to rethink your position?

Again, I would love to respond myself. When I aired my issues with the Tulsa World on Twitter, their only response was to upsell me on a subscription. They offered no real solution. I guess, if anyone wants a real conversation on a news site, they will have to go with NewsOK where all you need is a free account to read everything and comment to all articles.

Letter To The Editor In Support Of Better Political Alternatives

Earlier this week, James Mitchell of Oklahoma City had a letter to the editor published at NewsOK. in that letter, James advocated for better alternatives to the current two parties in Oklahoma. In this letter, James calls for more qualified Independent candidates as well as open primaries. He also laments the current voter mentality that has led to where we are today.

Here is James’ letter in full:

I agree with E. Zachary Knight (Your Views, Feb. 3) that there needs to be an alternative for voters other than Democrat, Republican and the tea party for state and national offices. However, in today’s political environment anyone who dares to be an independent thinker who’s not walking in lockstep with party ideology and who has the audacity to put the welfare of the state or nation ahead of the honorless party machines immediately commits political suicide. Voters have helped to create this environment with our excessive thirst for the extreme.

Getting independent candidates who are actually qualified to hold the offices and getting them to run is another major challenge. The Republican presidential primaries of 2012, for example, were a clown show. Fortunately, the only one of that group who was actually qualified did get the nomination. If independents are going to seriously challenge the established political machine, the candidates must be truly qualified to hold the offices they’re seeking.

Allowing open primaries in Oklahoma would be a major feat. In Oklahoma, change to what we’ve always done is hard to accomplish. Even when the benefits of the changes are as bold as the sky, there are still those who would attempt to take us backward. The Oklahoma City mayor’s race this year will be a good example.

Letter To The Editor Talks Keeping Politics Local

In a letter to the editor of the Tulsa World, reader C. R. Ayers of Tulsa talks about keeping politics local. The thought being that we have more control over what happens the closer the issues and leaders are. So why waste so much effort on national or out of state issues when we have more power in our cities and state? Here is the full letter:

We often are distracted. Distracted from our more important local issues. We focus too much on national issues instead, issues over which we have little control: Florida murder trials, abortion laws in other states, filibusters, presidential appointees, global warming, etc. All these puzzling issues are featured nightly on broadcast or cable news.

Someone once said, “All politics is local,” meaning all these troubling things come back down to where we live, to trying to resolve problems in our own little town before taking on the larger national issues.

Which is to say, there are enough priority issues here in Tulsa and our state to keep us busy for a while. There are issues that most of us sometimes gloss over or completely ignore. There are issues facing our governor. There are issues facing our Legislature, our U.S. senators and representatives. Our mayor and city council face issues as well. But our local politicians love pointing their fingers back toward our national leaders in Washington instead – locals absolving themselves from being part of any national problem.

I suggest we first bring our attention back to our local leaders and hold their feet to the fire. Are they working in our best interests? What do they really stand for? Are they beholding to out-of-state interests or to we the people in Oklahoma? We might want to fire some of the slackers and replace them. Then what might be resolved here locally could make a difference in the rest of the country.

Once again, we would like to ask that you keep the letters rolling. We love reading them.


Letter To The Editor Responds To NewsOK Voter ID Editorial

In a letter to the editor, NewsOK reader Connor Bannon of Edmond responds to the recent editorial trying to defend Oklahoma’s Voter ID law using a North Carolina study. In this letter, Connor uses the evidence, or lack thereof, that Texas used in trying to justify its Voter ID law. Here is that letter in full:

Regarding “Overblown: N.C. study rebuts voter ID claims” (Our Views, July 25): Voter ID laws serve as clear examples of government solutions in search of nonexistent problems. Granted, the new laws don’t, as many on the left suggest, present an insurmountable challenge to individual voters. However, they do place an unnecessary burden upon many of our fellow citizens.

Voter fraud isn’t a problem that plagues any state. Consider the “prevalence” of voter fraud in Texas, a state that passed voter ID legislation similar to North Carolina’s. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot found that from 2002 to 2012, there were just 100 federal prosecutions and 50 state convictions for voter fraud. That would mean an average of 15 prosecutions and convictions per year. To put the number into context, Texas has a population of approximately 26 million and cast 7,962,799 votes in the 2012 election. This means voter fraud is committed, as a percentage of Texas votes, at a rate of 0.000188 percent, and as a percentage of the Texas population, 0.0000576 percent. The percentage of Americans struck by lightning annually is 0.000143 percent — greater than the occurrence of voter fraud as a percentage of Texans.

Once again, keep the letters rolling. We love reading them and love seeing them published.

Letter To The Editor Calls Out Speaker Shannon For Blocking Ballot Access Reform

For years, the Senate had been the primary roadblock to Ballot Access Reform. This year saw a shift from the Senate to a single member of the Oklahoma House, Speaker Shannon. I wrote a letter to the editor to about his role in the death of this important reform and it was published earlier today. Here it is in it’s entirety. (This letter was also published, with some slightly different edits, at the Tulsa World)

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon held true to his word — ballot access reform wasn’t a priority for him this year. Despite two bills being introduced this session, one in the House and one in the Senate, neither bill made it to the House floor for a vote. House Bill 2134, the bill that would have returned the petition requirement to form a new party to the 5,000-signature requirement of 1974, failed to reach the House floor. Despite passing the House Rules Committee, the Calendar Committee refused to hear the bill at the request of Shannon. This quickly killed the best opportunity for real reform in the state.

Senate Bill 668, which would have removed presidential elections from the signature calculations, also failed to reach the House floor. This would have had the benefit of stabilizing the signature requirement between elections. This bill passed the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately, the Calendar Committee refused to hear the bill.

One must seriously question the priorities of Shannon if providing voters real election choices isn’t one of them. In the last three elections, Oklahoma voters have been the only ones in the United States to be denied more than two choices for president. Oklahoma voters need and want this reform. They’ve been asking for it for decades. If the Legislature and Shannon, specifically, are unwilling to make the change, the people will force it.

Again, We encourage all readers to write letters to both NewsOK and the Tulsa World as well as any local newspapers you read. The more we talk about this violation of voter rights, the better chance it has of passing.

Letter To The Editor Laments The Death of HB2134, Ballot Access Reform

Over the weekend, Anthony Papillion of Miami had a letter published in the Tulsa World in which he laments the death of HB2134. Despite passing out of the House Rules Committee with no issues, HB2134 was never heard by the House Calendar Committee and thus never voted on by the House.

The Oklahoma Legislature had another opportunity this year to give more Oklahoma voters a voice at the polls. House Bill 2134 would have reduced the number of signatures required to get a new party listed on the ballot from its current high count of 5 percent of active voters to the pre-1974 level of 5,000.

Unfortunately, HB 2134 won’t even be heard this year by the Legislature because lawmakers have much more important bills to hear. Those bills include setting a new price for a one-day fishing license, allowing counties to provide incentives for wellness programs, and declaring part of Oklahoma 81 as a historic bike trail. Yes, all those “important” bills were more important than making sure as many voters as possible had the chance to participate in the electoral process.

Oklahoma voters have shown that they want more choice in their ballot. We’ve shown that we are not happy with the current two-party status quo. Why does the Legislature find it so hard to get that message? Perhaps lawmakers are afraid of giving us too much power so that we have a chance to get rid of them when we go to the polls?

As always, writing letters to the editors of the various newspapers in Oklahoma is one of the easiest ways to spread the word about the need for ballot access reform. Keep them coming.

Letter To The Editor Published In Tulsa World

Today, the Tulsa World published my Letter to the Editor. This letter was pretty much word for word my letter to NewsOK, but the World made several edits. Nothing that changed the meaning in any way, just the flow. It is great to see that the World finally picked it up. This letter has sparked a pretty great conversation in the comments that had yet to exist on the Tulsa World website.

I will express one aside here. The Tulsa World is a supporter of what are called “paywalls” in which non-subscribing readers are blocked from reading more than 10 or so articles a month. This means that it is likely that some of you may not be able to read the letter or the comments. This is one reason why I like to post the letter contents in full. Continue reading

“What Are Legislators Afraid Of?” Letter to News OK

Today, Rena Guay had a letter published on NewsOK showing her support for ballot access reform. She also calls out the current efforts for not going far enough and allowing for write-ins.

We agree. Oklahoma is one of the few states that do not allow for write-in candidates for any election. This needs to change. When people do not see a candidate they can support on the ballot, they would rather stay home than vote for someone they don’t support. Allowing for write-ins would provide those people and opportunity to cast a vote for the person they support while at the same time declaring their no confidence vote in the named candidates.

I agree with E. Zachary Knight (Your Views, Feb. 6) that Oklahoma needs ballot access reform. However, Knight didn’t go far enough, and neither do proposed changes to ballot access from the Legislature. In addition to reducing the number of signatures needed to start a new party, Oklahomans need the right to write in candidates on the ballot, like 42 other states. Other impediments to access, and thus an absence of real democracy, remain.

What are our legislators afraid of? The voters who put them in office to begin with? This isn’t some radical left-wing agenda that Oklahoma conservatives need to stave off. This is democracy! If the policymakers at the Capitol are going to continue this ridiculous stonewalling on ballot reform, they need to offer Oklahomans a good explanation. In the meantime, those citizens should contact their representatives and tell them to start making these commons-sense, democratic changes to Oklahoma law and bring us into the modern era of ballot access and voting rights.

Rena Guay, Oklahoma City

Letter To The Editor Published In NewsOK Asking For Reform

I regularly send letters to the editor. I find it to be a great way to address issues that often get overlooked by the media. Ballot Access Reform is one of those issue. Of all the media sites in Oklahoma, NewsOK seems to be one of the easier outlets to get a letter published. While NewsOK already took the stance that Oklahoma needs reform, that was many weeks before the Legislative session began. So it is important to keep this issue in the forefront of the media. So I sent a letter to NewsOK and other media outlets and NewsOK was the first to publish it.

So here is the original unedited version of the letter:

Once again, Ballot Access Reform is on the table in Oklahoma. Will this year be the year that Oklahoma joins the rest of the US in easing the requirements to form a new party? Will this year be the year that Oklahoma citizens can look forward to real choice in future Presidential elections? Or will we see a continuation of the status quo?

Unfortunately, things are off to a very rocky start. While bills have been introduced in both the State House and Senate, these bills are in the exact same position similar bills were in the past two Legislative Sessions. That position ended with prior efforts dying in Committee. The House version, HB 2134, reduces the signature requirement to 5,000 signatures, the same requirement needed prior to 1974. Yet, the Senate version, SB 668, retains the current 5% requirement but drops the Presidential elections from the equation. This has been the hard Senate line for many years.

It is time for the Senate to end its war on Oklahoma voter choice and amend SB 668 to reflect the language introduced in the House. There are no valid reasons for keeping the status quo. There are no valid reasons for blocking a change for the better in Oklahoma politics. It is time for change. If three Presidential Elections in a Row where Oklahoma was the only state in the US with two choices on the ballot is not evidence to support that, then what is? If three Presidential elections in a row with lower voter turnout than the previous election is not evidence in support of that, then what is?

The following was published on February 6, 2013. I like to post both versions of the letter as it helps to see what edits may get made to your own letters.

Ballot access reform is again on the table in Oklahoma. Will this be the year that we join the rest of the United States in easing the requirements to form a new party? Will this be the year Oklahomans can look forward to real choice in future presidential elections? Or will we see a continuation of the status quo?

Unfortunately, things are off to a rocky start. While bills have been introduced in both houses of the Legislature, these bills are in the same position as similar bills were in the past two legislative sessions. That position ended with prior efforts dying in committee. The House version, House Bill 2134, reduces the signature requirement to 5,000, the same requirement needed prior to 1974. Yet the Senate version, Senate Bill 668, retains the current 5 percent requirement but drops the presidential elections from the equation. This has been the hard Senate line for many years.

It’s time for the Senate to end its war on Oklahoma voter choice and amend SB 668 to reflect the language introduced in the House. There are no valid reasons for keeping the status quo and blocking a change for the better in Oklahoma politics. It’s time for change. If three presidential elections in a row when Oklahoma was the only state with two choices on the ballot isn’t evidence to support that, what is?

So please, write letters to every newspaper you can and voice your support for reform in this state. The more voices that are aired, the more will be heard.