On Monday I covered a small rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Put together in large part by master of ceremonies Meg DeMarco, the rally was about ballot access reform in the state. My report on the event is below, followed by my thoughts on the issue especially as it relates to my state of residence.

Oklahoma has some of the strictest ballot access laws of any state in the nation. We have closed primaries, we do not allow write-ins, and we require more petition signatures than any other state in order to place a candidate on the ballot for a presidential election. Oklahoma was also the only state in 2004 to have only two candidates on the presidential ballot.

My Take

There is a long list of statements which could end with “except in Oklahoma” for a lot of things, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, an overly restrictive (in my opinion) ballot access system is not a positive feature of our state. Because of the closed primary system, voters who are not registered with any party, or are registered with the “wrong” party don’t always even have the chance to vote at all. That’s terrible! The whole reason we fought for this nation in the first place was because we didn’t have the ability to elect representatives.

RJ Harris at Oklahoma Ballot Access Rally

Independent Candidate RJ Harris talks with members of the Occupy movement in Oklahoma.

Not being registered to vote is one thing, but being registered but denied the freedom to vote is a violation of what it means to be American. Oklahoma has turned in recent years into a heavily Republican state. We are sometimes called the Reddest State in the Nation. However, what that means if you are Democrat, is that unless a Democrat wants to challenge an almost sure Republican win, you don’t even get a primary. You can’t vote in the Republican primary. Texas, on the other hand, is what is known as an open-primary state. In other words, even if you’re a Republican, you can vote Democrat if you want – so if there’s no Republican running for office, but two Democrats are, you can still vote since the primary will be the last contest.

Oklahoma needs to open up its ballot access system. I’m not a supporter of Gary Johnson, nor do I advocate that he could win the election if he made it to our ballot this year, though I do think he should at least be included in the debates so that he can make his case. The issue to me is that alternative ideas are being suppressed. There also needs to be a vehicle to support the ideas and represent the people who do not align with either major party. After all, we do believe in freedom, don’t we?

The Oklahoman and Tulsa World also covered this event.