Oklahoma currently operates under a closed primary system. In this system, only members of a qualified party can vote in that party’s primary, unless that party allows for Independent voters to vote in it. Under this system, many elections are barred from a majority of voters because only a single party has candidates running for office. In the 2012 election, there were sixteen House and four Senate seats whose only opposition was in the primary election.
This will change for the better if legislation introduced this year passes and is signed into law.
Representative Jeannie McDaniel, Democrat District 78, has introduced HB2551 and Senator Larry Boggs, Republican District 7, has introduced SB1578. Both bills open up primary elections to members of other parties and to Independent voters if the only candidates for a seat are on a single party’s primary ballot.
If a recognized political party has two or more nominees for an office, no other recognized political party has a nominee for the office, and no person registered as an Independent pursuant to Section 4-112 of this title is a candidate for the office, all registered voters eligible to vote for that office, regardless of whether the voters are registered as members of the recognized political party having candidates for the office, are registered as members of another recognized political party, or are registered as Independents, shall be allowed to vote in the Primary Election and, if a Runoff Primary Election is necessary, in the Runoff Primary Election.
This is a great step in the direction of ensuring that Oklahoma’s elections are fair and open to all voters. We will be watching the progress of these bills very carefully this election.