May 12, 2010
Wesley Burt

Public opinion favorable for independents and third parties ballot access reform

The most recent SoonerPoll reveals most Oklahomans believe independents should have the right to vote in primary elections, and third-party candidates should have fewer restrictions when trying to get on election ballots.

More than 62 percent agree registered independents should be able to choose to vote in either the Democratic or Republican party primaries each election year, while only 31 percent of Oklahomans are disagree.

Making ballot access easier is an even more popular idea and the number of supporters is even greater. More than 66 percent said the process should be made easier, while less than 20 percent disapprove.

�There is broad-based desire to not keep the status quo,� Keith Gaddie, vice president of SoonerPoll, said., Oklahoma�s public opinion pollster, conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 500 likely voters from April 5 � 12. This particular question was commissioned by the Oklahoma Gazette and has a margin of error of � 4.38 percent.

At least a dozen states offer an open primary, and one state allows it only when one party is having a primary, and the idea is supported by liberals and conservatives alike, although liberals are slightly more supportive than conservatives.

The ballot access issue is also supported by liberals and conservatives as well as a majority of both established parties.

State Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, co-authored a bill with Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, that would reduce the number of signatures required to create a new political party.

The bill is currently stalled in a legislative conference committee, but Gaddie notes that even if the third party access laws are reformed, third party candidates will likely continue to face obstacles.

�There is no incentive for candidates to move into a third party, because the votes just are not there to win,� said Gaddie. �You can draw a district in Oklahoma City where a Green Party candidate could win. But once they get to the Legislature, they are going to have to caucus with a (Republican or Democratic) party. Otherwise, they are not going to get access to committee assignments or staff resources.�

Wesley Burt
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Wesley Burt