Sunday, January 9, 2011

Key Files Election Change Measures

Rep. Charles Key has filed two pieces of legislation that would reform the way the state conducts elections.

House Bill 1057 would require political parties to pay for presidential primary elections.

House Bill 1058 would change the required number of signatures on a petition to get a political party on the ballot. The legislation would remove the 5 percent of total votes cast in the last general election and replace it with a requirement of 5,000 signatures from registered voters.

“When you look at all 50 states and their signature requirements, Oklahoma has either the worst or the second worst ballot access law in the country,” Key, R-Oklahoma City, said. “Historically, 5,000 votes were all that was needed to get a party on the ballot. For some reason, that changed in the 1970s. We now have a system based on a percentage that easily sets the requirement to be between 50,000 and 70,000 required signatures to get on the ballot. It’s the reason Oklahomans typically have only two choices for President. Most of the other states we have looked at for a comparison set their requirement at between 5,000 and 10,000 signatures.”

Key said that he was recently contacted by Marine Corps veteran Richard Prawdzienski, an Independent candidate in the 2010 election. Prawdzienski noted that a third party candidate would have to collect 73,135 validated signatures in order to run under the political banner of his choice rather than as an Independent.

“It is a shame that this veteran who sacrificed for his country was unable to run for office under a third party banner because of our near-impossible signature requirement,” Key said. “Mr. Prawdzienski and others believe it’s a matter of freedom and free speech – what veterans like him fought for.”

Thom Holmes, long-time member of the Constitution Party, requested that Key file HB 1057.

Said Holmes, “Participating in the Election process, both by voting and by having the opportunity to run for office as a candidate, are worldwide symbols of freedom and they should be encouraged, not discouraged in Oklahoma. One of the things that makes America great is the concept that competition yields a superior product. Competition in the political realm is greatly restricted in Oklahoma by the worst Ballot Access laws in the entire country.”

Key said that presidential primary elections are expensive and with the state in its current budget crisis, it needs to save the estimated $1 million plus cost to hold primary elections.

“Parties in other states choose their various nominees in convention or by different means. Oklahoma for many years used the caucus method and it worked fine. The caucus method would bring more presidential candidates to the state and voters would have a better chance to meet them and interact with them.

“Both of my bills are about fairness,” Key said. “There is nothing fair about taxpayers funding primary elections in which they don’t take part and there is nothing fair about restrictive ballot access.”

There are 46 states that require fewer signatures than Oklahoma to get a third party candidate on the ballot. There are 20 states that require 5,000 or fewer signatures. There are 18 states that require 1,000 or fewer signatures.

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