that addresses the issue of ballot access that might be brought up when the next state legislative session begins in 2010.
House Bill 1072, if passed, would make the governor's election the determining election in how many signatures would be needed for a third party to get on the ballot, according to a June story in Oklahoma Gazette. Currently, the law states that the determining election is the general election " whether presidential or gubernatorial.
Kyle Loveless, CEO of political consulting firm Phoenix Consulting, said he thinks the bill may face an "uphill battle" next year because the lawmakers who will be debating it are from the two parties that enjoy large success, the Republicans and the Democrats.
But Loveless said a more open ballot may actually help the two dominant parties.
"The strange thing is, in most instances getting more people involved probably would help the parties because most people in Oklahoma are not going to be so far right or be so far left that they join the Green Party or they join the Constitutional Party, or they join the whatever party," said Loveless, a Gazette commentary writer. "Most people in Oklahoma would be joining one of the major parties."
Despite this, Loveless said lawmakers are afraid there might be instances where a third-party candidate could affect the election results, and that may be enough to keep the bill from passing.
"I can definitely see a race, you know, a Tulsa race, an urban race or something like that, where either side, a very far-left candidate, would peel off enough people that the Republican would win a district that the Democrats normally control, and vice versa," he said.
And unfortunately for the Libertarian Party in Oklahoma, this is a problem that doesn't affect many state Libertarian Parties, said Bill Redpath, the chairman of the national Libertarian Party. He said the party is doing relatively well in some Western states, where ballot access laws are fairly lenient, and nationally, the party is the strongest of the minority parties.
"We have state parties that are relatively stronger in certain states versus other states," Redpath said. "And certainly ballot access law has a lot to do with that, where it makes it difficult to get established in states that have really tough ballot access laws, like Oklahoma."
But if Loveless is correct, and the ballot access bill does not pass next year, the Libertarian Party, as well as the other minority parties in Oklahoma, will have to trudge on, attempting to attract Oklahomans without a consistent presence on the ballot.
And this doesn't bode well for the hopes of these minority parties because, as Redpath said, ballot access is the key.
"So much effort in difficult states is eaten up, so to speak, by having to comply with the ballot access laws that there's not much left over in terms of resources once you get on the ballot," he said.
"I can't think of any places where I'd say, 'Oh, we've got a really strong party where we don't have ballot access.'"
At the same time, however, while the relatively restrictive nature of the ballot access laws in Oklahoma may keep the state's minority parties from becoming powerhouses, Loveless said it may actually benefit the Libertarian Party in another way.
"The Libertarian Party has essentially become a catchall for, like, independents, the Constitutionalists. Just about any small or, you know, specialized, single issue