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Third-party candidates not on ballot

Some people will not vote for any candidate due to lack of choice.

Sarah Waldrop - Daily Staff Writer

November 02, 2004

Voters across the country have to make many choices today, but some options won’t be available to Oklahomans. No third-party presidential candidates are on Oklahoma’s ballot this year.

Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate; David Cobb, the Green Party candidate; and Ralph Nader, who is running as an independent, were all unable to secure spots on Oklahoma’s ballot. Oklahoma and New Hampshire are the only states where Badnarik is not in the presidential race. A representative for Badnarik’s campaign said Oklahoma’s “onerous” election laws are to blame.

“I think people in Oklahoma have been cheated by their state government,” said Fred Collins, campaign manager for Badnarik Campaign 2004. “Their choices have been limited to Democrats and Republicans.”

Michael Clingman, secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, said potential third-party candidates for president need to get signatures equal to 3 percent of voters in the last Oklahoma general election to get on the ballot as independents and 5 percent to gain party status. He said Badnarik, who was seeking party status with the Libertarian Party, would have needed 51,781 signatures this year but only came up with about 20,000.

Clingman also said Oklahoma does not allow write-in votes, so candidates who don’t make it onto the ballot cannot be a part of the presidential race.

“It’s a legislative decision,” Clingman said of the ballot access rules. “It’s not as if the election system decides this; we’re just following the law.”

Gary Copeland, professor of political science, said Oklahoma’s tough election laws can cause problems.

“The consequence of making it difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballot is, one, you’ll have some voters who feel disaffected,” Copeland said. He said these voters may decide not to vote at all.

“The other consequence is it tends to force people to support one of the two major parties, and it tends to perpetuate the two-party system,” Copeland said.

Melody Bradley, classics and sociology junior, said she is one of the disaffected voters Copeland mentioned. She said she is a Badnarik supporter from Georgia and voted by absentee ballot there this year, although she considered registering in Oklahoma.

“I’m very glad that I didn’t just because I wouldn’t be able to vote for the person I support,” Bradley said.

She said dissatisfaction with the major party candidates drove her to vote for Badnarik.

“I dislike Bush and Kerry equally,” Bradley said. “If there was a candidate I could honestly support instead of the Libertarian, I would have considered voting that way, but not under the circumstances.”

James M. Branum, co-chairman of the Oklahoma Green Party, founded an organization called None of the Above for Oklahoma to protest the limited choices. Branum said the group is a coalition of the Green Party, Oklahoma Libertarians and Oklahoma Constitution Party supporters.

“A lot of us were frustrated that we couldn’t vote for the candidate of our choice,” Branum said. He said the group is encouraging supporters of third-party candidates to vote but to leave the presidential portion of the ballot blank. NOTA4OK is also planning to hold protests in Tulsa, Muskogee and Oklahoma City today to raise public awareness of the issue.

“This is a civil rights issue,” Branum said. “People can’t be free if they can’t vote.”

Branum said his organization is actually encouraging voter turnout. He said he thinks voters should go to the polls to decide some important state questions and other close races in Oklahoma even if they can’t vote for their favorite presidential candidates. He said he hopes to see 25,000 to 50,000 people vote without choosing a presidential candidate.

“We don’t want people to stay home,” Branum said. “Part of what we are is encouraging voting.”

Collins and Branum both said they hope to change Oklahoma election laws for future elections. Collins said similar movements have already had success easing election laws in Michigan and Florida.

“One of the things the Libertarians plan on working on is approaching the legislature and trying to change the laws in places where they have these onerous restrictions,” Collins said.

Third-party candidates not on ballot

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Date Subject Posted by:
11/03/2004 It is amazing to watch the US... Rex Wycherley

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