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Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oklahoma voting rights in jeopardy
Oklahoma, known nationwide as the state with the least choice on its ballot, is now poised to make things even more difficult from an election standpoint. The legislature’s failure to coordinate also threatens another elections bill to help military voters, which is likely to be overturned as unconstitutional.
HB1058, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Charles Key, would in its current version reduce the signature collection requirement for forming a new political party to 22,500 signatures. Currently, the requirement is 5% of the total vote cast for Governor in the last election, which in 2012 would result in a requirement of 51,379 signatures. This is more than the 5,000 signatures in Key’s original bill, but would at least eliminate Oklahoma’s poster child status in the electoral dysfunction department.
However, this bill is now stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. This is where the lack of coordination becomes a problem for state legislators. Another bill which would help military service members vote, by moving the primary date from July to June, is now likely to be tossed as unconstitutional by the courts.
The second bill, known as HB1615 or the “Let the Troops Vote Act”, would in the process move the deadline for new political parties from May 1 to March 1 of the election year. Petitioning deadlines that early have been ruled unconstitutional 15 times. Given Oklahoma’s already difficult requirements, without HB1058 to reduce the number of signatures needed, the law stands no chance in court.
“The people of Oklahoma, and the United States, have a right to have their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Micah Gamino of Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform, which supports the bill. “If we won’t support democracy here, how can we claim to be supporting it in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan?”
Free & Equal finds this an apt observation. “State legislators are putting the voting rights of active duty service members in jeopardy, just because they’re getting cold feet about opening up the ballot to competition,” Free & Equal founder and chair Christina Tobin said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”
Supporters of HB1058 are being asked to contact the members of the Senate Rules Committee as soon as possible, to let them know that HB1058 must pass as it currently stands to restore the right to vote of every Oklahoma voter. Also be sure to contact the Rules Committee Chairman, Senator Rob Johnson, at (405) 521-5592 and Vice-Chairman, Senator Jonathan Nichols, at (405) 521-5535 to urge them to take action on HB1058.
Free & Equal is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.