Lost in the shuffle of other bills going through the State House was HB 2134.
Originally the bill, authored by Speaker Jeff Hickman and State Senator Bryce Marlatt, was meant to drop the requirements for forming a new political party in Oklahoma to 5000 signatures.
The bill was amended by State Rep. Jon Echols to change the requirement from 5% to 2.5% of the total number of votes cast in the last General Election. I speculate that the bill was amended at the request of Speaker Hickman because he knew the 5000 would not pass the State Senate.
The bill passed the State House on the afternoon of Thursday, March 13. 11 House members voted against it. They were all Republicans, which isn’t a big surprise considering the Oklahoma GOP has been the biggest obstacle in the fight for voter choice and ballot access reform in Oklahoma. Those that voted against it were Representatives Biggs, Jackson, Nollan, Schwarztz, Cockroft, Johnson, O’Donnell, Trebilcock, Derby, McCall, and Sanders. One member was reported as having said he voted against it because he didn’t understand what it would do and was educated about it later.
Having watched the House proceedings as this bill was being brought forward to the House Floor by Rep. Echols, nobody at the chambers asked any questions about the bill. So it seems to me that if one of our legislators did not understand the bill, perhaps he should have asked about it during the time that was yielded for questions. It also seems to me that if you were elected and are paid to be a representative you should understand something about the bills that you are voting on.
Attempt after attempt has been made to change the ballot access laws in Oklahoma ever since the 5% requirement was enacted in 1974. Before that, the requirement was a flat 5000 signatures.
Although getting the requirement changed back to the flat 5000 signatures would have been preferred, at this point, any change is a step in the right direction.
Right now it is up to Senator Marlatt to push the bill in his chamber.