Evidence mounts for Oklahoma ballot access reform (Guest Blog: Zachary Knight)

Zachary Knight is a former Elector for Gary Johnson, an independent voter, and Chief Editor of OKVoterChoice.org.

okvoterchoiceFor nearly four decades, Oklahoma has had some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country. In 1974, Democratic legislators passed a bill to increase the number of signatures a new party would need to gain ballot access – from a flat 5,000 signatures, to 5 percent of the vote cast in the last general election. This set in motion a series of events that would lead to Oklahoma being the only state to limit its voters to two choices for President in the last three elections. 

Evidence is mounting that this is a failed policy for both practical and ideological reasons. As such, it is time for the Oklahoma Legislature to pass legitimate reform now.

The two most common arguments against reform are that voters will be confused and that alternative candidates will create a “spoiler effect” between the duopoly candidates. But when you analyze the official 2012 Presidential Election results, the data shows no evidence that voters were confused. In every state and D.C., the vast majority of voters had no problem finding and voting for one of the two duopoly candidates. No state in the U.S. had close enough margins that the lack of a third party candidate would have flipped the election. 

Other facts show just how limited are Oklahomans’ choices at the ballot. The average number of Presidential candidates on any ballot was eight, or four times more than what was available in Oklahoma.  The next lowest number of candidates available in any state was double that of Oklahoma. 

In a recent analysis of border states, Richard Winger of Ballot Access News showed evidence of how many Oklahoma voters were denied an opportunity to vote for Gary Johnson. Based on the vote percentage in bordering counties, Mr. Winger determined that had Gary Johnson been on the Oklahoma ballot in 2012, he would have received about 20,000 votes. This is roughly 1.5 percent of the vote cast in Oklahoma. That is a far cry from disrupting the 67-33 percent election results that brought a Republican win in Oklahoma.

Today, the Oklahoma Legislature has introduced in both chambers bills that would stop denying choices to Oklahoma voters. The House has an opportunity to pass HB2134, which would return the signature requirement to the 5,000 that it was before the change in 1974. Unfortunately, the Senate version, SB668, keeps the 5 percent requirement and simply drops the Presidential Elections from the equation. This disparity in language on the Senate side has held up reform in recent years and needs to stop.

For many years, the Senate has refused to go any lower than 5 percent of the last election for Governor. As can plainly be seen from the evidence presented, the Senate has nothing to lose from passing the reform with a 5,000 signature requirement. It is time that Oklahoma joined the other states in allowing for voter choice and freedom in the Presidential elections. It is time to open the ballot up to new parties.

The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.


The opinions stated in guest articles are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

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