Oklahoma, much like the United States, is a Constitutional Republic. In that form of government, members of the government are elected by the people to perform the duties outlined in the governing constitution. Much like the US, Oklahoma’s government was organized with a series of checks and balances to protect the people from tyrannical rulers. In this system, we have a legislature that writes and passes laws, an executive that signs bills into law and is responsible for executing the laws, and a judiciary that determines whether those laws meet the standards laid out in the US and State constitutions.
However, there are some people who are not happy with those checks and balances. One particular person is Speaker T. W. Shannon. Earlier this year, the State Supreme Court overturned a tort reform law because that law failed to meet the State Constitution’s ban on logrolling, or the process of including more than one topic in a single bill. Because this law was overturned, Governor Mary Fallin called a special legislative session to reenact those laws properly. That same court also ruled against a bill that placed unconstitutional hurdles in the process of a women getting an abortion. These rulings are checks and balances in practice. However, Speaker Shannon is not happy with the court’s rulings claiming that they amount to “judicial activism”. Continue reading
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 NewsOK.com 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.
Earlier in the session, HB2134 died in the House after the Calendar Committee refused to hear the bill and pass it to the floor. During that time, it was made known that Speaker Shannon did not want to hear ballot access reform at all. We had hoped that Speaker Shannon might have only wanted to not hear HB2134 specifically. We then put our hopes on the Senate Bill, SB668, that was not as good, but would pave the way for further real reform. Unfortunately, SB668, despite passing the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee, failed to be heard by the House Calendar Committee. These actions show that Speaker Shannon refused to hear any ballot access reform bills.
It is unfortunate that such needed reform was blocked by a single person in the State Legislature. As I have pointed out many times, all the evidence points to the need for reform. Oklahoma has been the only state in the United States to deny its voters more than two choices for President in the last three elections. The election results for 2012 show that the confusion and spoiler arguments used to fight reform hold no weight. Ballot Access News showed that at least 20,000 voters were denied the opportunity to vote for Gary Johnson. With all that evidence showing the real harm of our current laws toward voters, and the lack of harm to the duopoly parties, supporting ballot access reform, why wasn’t it a priority?
With the death of SB668, Oklahoma voters are no closer to being able to choose the party and candidates of their choice. While the bills are dead for this year, they can be revived next year. However, even if one of them were to pass and signed into law, it would be too late for new parties to form before the Governor elections. But that should not stop us. Getting real reform, as found in HB2134, passed in 2014 will open the door wide for the 2016 election. That would be a valuable change for Oklahoma voters.
So what should we do? We need to raise further awareness of the issue. We need more letters to the editors, more letters and calls to State Legislators. Write your Representative and Senator. Write the Governor. Demand that they bring ballot access reform to Oklahoma voters. More importantly, tell your friends and family about the need for reform. We will continue to bring you the latest news and updates on this important topic.