Oklahoma House unanimously passes favorable ballot access bill

The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, the state with the most difficult petitioning requirements in the country for presidential candidates, may see big relief if a bill passed unanimously on March 10 in the state’s House of Representatives becomes law.

The required number of signatures to get on the ballot would drop from 5 percent of the votes cast in the last general election for governor, which for 2016 will be 41,188 signatures, to just 1 percent, or 8,294 signatures.

The last time the Libertarian Party was on the ballot in Oklahoma was 2000.

On Friday, March 6, OKLP filed a Notice of Intent with the Secretary of State’s office, as required by law, to start petitioning for the 2016 elections.

Oklahoma Libertarians attempted to get on the ballot in 2012. 51,739 valid signatures were needed that year, which requires collecting at least 70,000 raw signatures since many will be disqualified (typical validity rates are 70-75 percent). Only about 51,000 raw signatures were turned in — far too few to make the ballot.

The LP also filed suit that year challenging the state’s early petitioning deadline. Although the suit was withdrawn, Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, said both the lawsuit and the petitioning, which helped make the case for the lawsuit, created pressure that is helping to advance the bill now before the legislature.

“With ballot access, it pays to press for improvement for years,” said Winger. “Persistent action really pays off. There is almost no instance in which we failed to get relief when we complained year after year.”

Libertarians saw a ballot access bill pass in the House in 2014 by 74-11 while a weaker bill passed in the senate. Lawmakers adjourned before holding a joint committee to reconcile the bills.

The Oklahoma Senate has until April 6 to pass a bill.