Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Importance of Fair Ballot Access

Ballot access is an important issue.  Our nation is built on the belief that everyone's beliefs and opinions are important and have a right to be heard.  But when it comes to politics, that's often not the case.

My home state of Oklahoma has some of the toughest ballot access restrictions in the country. Republicans and Democrats have it easy: they're automatically listed on the ballot. Third parties, on the other hand, have to jump amazing hurdles to be recognized in the state.  In fact, while the major two parties get easy access, third parties often must collect over 50,000 (5% of the voters) signatures just to ensure a shot at competing. The process is completely and at every level stacked in favor of the two party duopoly.

Last year, Oklahoma Rep. Charles Key introduced HB1058, a bill that would reduce the number of signatures required from its current level to only 5,000. While, for many smaller or less well known parties, that's still a high number of signatures, it's immensely less of a hurdle than what's in place now and almost assures that any serious party can get on the ballot.

Right now, the bill is waiting for a sponsor in the Senate and has a decent chance of passing if it can come to a vote. In the meantime, third parties like the Oklahoma Libertarian Party are busy collecting signatures under the old 5% rule and doing an amazing job at it.  Largely led by Oklahoma Libertarian Presidential candidate RJ Harris, the response to the ballot access initiative shows that voters want change. They're tired of the stranglehold the two major parties hold on our state.  The problem isn't the voters, it's the politicians.

Third parties represent a threat to the established power structure. They are principled and often aren't willing to compromise on important issues just to move a piece of legislation through a committee. Third parties give voters a real choice to the two party, takes voters out of their camps, and offers them a real chance to bring about change on both the state and federal level. Voters want change, politicians don't.

If you're an Oklahoman, it's vitally important that you contact your state Senator and ask him or her to sponsor HB1058. If you're not a resident of the state, take time to make sure ballot access in your state is fair and equal. If it's not, find out how you can change it and work with others to do it.  Our country is strong because of our varied opinions and discourse. Restricting our voices through unfair ballot access rules is just a way to centralize power and better control voting public.

There are more than two choices. Make your voice heard today.