Adding Choice at the Ballot Box
Oklahomans heading to vote usually have just two political parties to choose from: Democrats or Republicans.
The state currently has one of the toughest ballot access laws, but some third party organizers are trying to add more choices in the 2012 general election.
Oklahoma is one of the toughest states to get a third party candidate on the ballot since changes to the access laws in the 1990s.
Before ballot access laws changed, third parties only needed five-thousand signatures to be in the Presidential race, but now it’s five-percent of the last major election: nearly 52,000!
Bryan Mitchell is having coffee in Oklahoma City and says he’s registered as a Republican because he feels there’s no other choice.
“Here in Oklahoma there isn’t an outlet for independence at all even if there is an independent person.”
But, Oklahomans registering as independent are growing faster than either Republicans or Democrats.
Political Science Professor Keith Gaddie says third parties can hold Republicans and Democrats accountable.
“They can illuminate or bring to the floor issues that otherwise would not get discussed. They are a place where you can test out an argument or where those people who can’t get a voice inside a major party can find a way into the debate.”
So, some third party organizations are working to get the needed signatures from registered voters across the state.
Lori Kaserman works as the Oklahoma coordinator for Americans Elect, a national third party organization which is working to get its candidate on the ballot in November.
Kaserman is trying to get the signatures needed to get on the ballot because she says the recent atmosphere in Washington, DC is turning people away from the two major parties.
“A lot of independent parties are having more and more say and power and more people are starting to lean toward a more independent format or at the very least a more centrist belief if they are a Republican or Democrat.”
The Oklahoma Libertarian Party has been working since May to get the required signatures and currently has only 22,000.
Vice-Chair Clark Duffe says this is about freedom of choice for voters because in the end there’s not much of a difference between Republicans and Democrats.
“Really, they join a lot in the middle and you don’t see a lot of change from one to another. A lot of people upset with Barrack Obama, but the President is actually doing a lot of Republican stuff and not the stuff that his people wanted him to be doing.”
Back at the coffee shop Pamela Ghezzi a registered Democrat says getting third parties on the ballot is a noble effort but worries it will split the vote like the Presidential election in 2000.
“Even though I was all for Ralph nadir, I voted for gore and I think that’s why he lost the election because it was split between Ralph nadir and Gore.”
Gaddie says that also happened in 1992 with Ross Perot who had a very good showing in Oklahoma, but might also have taken away votes from President Bush.
Any third parties wishing to be on the ballot for the general election have until March to get their signatures to the state election board to be recognized in November.