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Election season begins early this year in Oklahoma; candidate filing starts Wednesday

The general election season for 132 Oklahoma offices will see major changes in 2012 including redistricting, a new political party and a longer political season kicking off with candidate filing starting Wednesday, a month early.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: April 8, 2012

In November, 132 state and congressional offices are up for grabs in Oklahoma, but the long road to political office begins Wednesday for potential candidates.

Political hopefuls must file their declaration of candidacy with the state Election Board and pay a fee or get enough petition signatures by 5 p.m. Friday to have their name on the ballot in November.

In 2010, a gubernatorial year with almost every statewide office up for election, almost 600 candidates filed. This year's filing is expected to be more in line with 2008, when 300 people filed, or 2004, with 412 candidates.

Recent redistricting for 2012 elections has changed the composition of the five congressional districts and many state House and Senate seats.

“In some cases there were major changes, and in some cases there were negligible changes,” state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.

This will be the first major election using the new district lines. State law requires a candidate be a registered voter in his or her district for six months before the candidate filing day.

“It's the new district lines within these boundaries where a person would need to be a registered voter as of Oct. 10,” Ziriax said.

Besides changes in districting, the entire political process has been moved a month earlier this year.

“In order to comply with federal law that requires states to give more time to military voters overseas, the state of Oklahoma made adjustments to the election calendar,” Ziriax said. “The voting rights of our military voters and overseas citizens is very important, and before, our Legislature taking action Oklahoma did not do the best job of protecting those rights.”

The filing period was moved from June to April. The primary election was moved from July to June. The primary runoff election, if needed, will still be in August.

The new schedule provides overseas voters enough time to receive absentee ballots and cast a vote in the elections.

“There's so much interest this year in the political process with the presidential election that people are very aware, from what we can tell, of the filing periods,” said Matt Pinnell, Oklahoma Republican Party chairman.

New party

Americans Elect — a nonprofit group attempting to become a recognized political party in all 50 states — turned in enough signature petitions last month to get on the Oklahoma ballot.

While it's too late for voters to switch their political party before the June primary and November election, due to a statewide party-change blackout period, candidates can still join the third-party group and file for office under that political party.

“The deadline for currently registered voters to make a change to their party affiliation was last week, March 31, but new voters can register in Americans Elect,” Ziriax said. “A candidate for that political party may change his or her party affiliation to seek the nomination within 15 days of it becoming a recognized political party.”

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