Nobody in Oklahoma may get to vote for Bob Barr, but, given the chance, it's not like many wouldn't.
Former Republican Rep. Barr, who represented Georgia in the United States Congress from 1995 to 2003, led the House of Representatives to impeach then-President Bill Clinton in 1999. He's for strengthening the border with Mexico, making government smaller and is a staunch gun-rights advocate. In fact, he's been a member of the board of directors for the National Rifle Association since 1997. In Oklahoma, a state so red that every single county voted for George W. Bush in 2004, a guy with credentials like that might play well.
So, what's keeping him out of the presidential race in Oklahoma? Simple: It's against the law. Oklahoma's requirements for Barr, a third-party candidate running as a Libertarian, to find a place on the ballot are stricter than that of any other state in the nation, he said.
"It's a real bummer," said Barr, who switched to the Libertarian Party in 2006. "It's an irony born of the two-party system, the status quo. The two status quo parties conspire " perhaps not in a legal sense, but they conspire " to keep third-party presidential candidates off the ballot. They make it almost impossibly difficult for an independent or third-party candidate for president to get on the ballot."
Oklahoma, Barr said, may end up being the only state in the union that will not let him file. Yet, polling numbers for Barr in Oklahoma are at 9 percent, higher than he's polling on the national level, according to a June Zogby poll. Why then, asks Barr, can't that constituency be allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice?
Which is why Barr and Oklahoma Libertarian Party officials filed a federal lawsuit last week attempting to open up Oklahoma's system. Barr and his supporters announced the lawsuit as they turned in a petition with a paltry 9,000-plus signatures at the state Capitol, far below the 43,913 " or 3 percent of the state's vote from the last presidential election " that would have been required to put the party and Barr on the ballot for the fall election.
"There is no other position that has such a high burden," Barr said, "just the presidency. It's because the national parties don't want the competition. They are deathly afraid of the competition. This is why it's so important for us to be doing this."
The lawsuit asks the federal court in Oklahoma City to ease Oklahoma's ballot access to conform to the standards of the rest of the country.
The lawsuit states: "Oklahoma has the most restrictive ballot access laws for presidential and vice presidential candidates of Independent or minor party status in the United States. In fact, Oklahoma is the only state having a petition signature requirement above 2 percent of the previous vote for president."
Noting that Oklahoma was the only state that didn't allow Ralph Nader on the ballot, the lawsuit concludes that: "Without court intervention, the 2008 presidential election in Oklahoma will be the second presidential election in a row in which Oklahoma voters will have had only two choices for president and vice president of the United States."
The lawsuit states Nader failed to appear on Oklahoma's presidential ballot in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
While Oklahoma is only one battle on his would-be road to the White House, a goal he readily admits is a lofty one, Barr insists the election can be won by his party. Still, he said, Oklahoma's access is also important and is a battle that can, and should, be won. "Ben Fenwick