All elections shall be free and equal.

July 18, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

“All elections shall be free and equal.” – Oklahoma Constitution, Section III-5

Those words are found in our state’s constitution. Yet, our state legislature is not living up to that standard.

I am running as an Independent in the race. This is because I do not agree with the Republican or Democratic party enough to ally myself with either of them. Part of this is because of what happened in 1974.

In 1974, the Legislative branch of Oklahoma decided they did not want competition in the Gubernatorial or Presidential elections from any person that was not a Republican or Democrat. They decided that they did not want any other parties rising up in Oklahoma to throw them out.

So they did what any fearful legislative body would do. They changed the laws to suit their own ends. They did this in two ways: First they wrote themselves into law. Second they put up extreme barriers for any other party.

Let’s think about that first one. They wrote themselves into law. Prior to 1974, Oklahoma recognized any party that met the state’s guidelines on membership and election status. After 1974, Oklahoma recognized any party that met the new higher threshold of membership and election status and those parties that were on the ballot in 1974. (Section 26-1-107 of Oklahoma Statutes) So what parties were on the ballot in 1974? The Democratic and Republican Parties. You heard that right. Those two parties will always be on the ballot even if they do not meet the requirements that other parties are subject.

Now for the second issue, the barriers on other parties. Prior to 1974, Oklahoma only required 5,000 signatures to organize a new party. From 1924 to 1974 the most parties on any one ballot was four. In 1974 the legislature changed that requirement to 5% of the total votes cast in the last General Election (either Gubernatorial or Presidential)(Section 26-1-108 of Oklahoma Statutes). How many is that? For a Political party to be organized for the coming Gubernatorial election it would have been 73,000. That is a really high jump from 5,000. In order to retain party status in Oklahoma, a Political party would have to have a minimum of 10% of the vote in the last General Election.(Section 26-1-109 of Oklahoma Statutes) This is up from the 1% required prior to 1974.

So were the members of the 1974 legislative branch afraid that they would not be able to get 5,000 people to support their respective parties? Were they afraid that they would fail to get 1% of the vote in a future election? Or were they just afraid that you the people would exercise your rights to elect those who truly represent your ideals and values?

This past Legislative session, a bill was introduced that would have reverted our ballot access laws to their prior 1974 status. This bill had passed the House and the Senate, but due to language differences, they had to be reconciled. A committee was formed to reconcile these differences in February and they just sat on it. This committee of a handful of legislative members decided that giving people a voice and a choice in our elections was not important enough to deal with.

My opponent, Scott Martin, was on that committee.

When I am elected as State Representative, I will reintroduce this bill and fight to give you a voice and a choice in our elections. I will not allow for any person or committee to block your constitutional right to have a free and equal election.

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