The Oklahoma Americans Elect Party sues to get on Oklahoma ballot

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: September 1, 2012
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Members of the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to get their presidential and vice presidential nominees on the November ballot.

“They complied with the law,” said James Linger, the Tulsa attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the chairman of the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party and the party's seven presidential electors.

The lawsuit filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court also wants to stop state election officials from printing ballots until the high court rules.

A hearing before a Supreme Court referee is set for Wednesday. Election officials had hoped to start printing ballots Tuesday in order to get them mailed to military members and others living in other countries by Sept. 21, or 45 days before the Nov. 6 election, to comply with federal law.

Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said work on preparing the ballots for the printer is ongoing.

“We're continuing the process of preparing for the election,” he said.

The lawsuit is in response to advice to election officials from the state attorney general's office not to place the Americans Elect nominees on the ballot. National Americans Elect Party officials never authorized the formation of any local party group or committee in Oklahoma, nor did national party officials ever file the paperwork and complete the necessary tasks to be recognized as a political party in the state, according to a legal memorandum from the attorney general's office.

Under the Americans Elect Party's bylaws, it is the party's board of directors that is empowered to perform any functions of the local party or committee in Oklahoma, it said. It also was the Americans Elect Party's board of directors — not Oklahoma Americans Elect Party members — that was empowered, if desired, to elect the party's Oklahoma presidential electors.

Linger disagreed.

“The state of Oklahoma doesn't recognize national parties, they recognize parties that are qualified under Oklahoma law,” he said. “The people that signed the petition for Americans Elect (to be recognized as a political party) were all Oklahoma voters.

“It's sort of unprecedented where you have a national party wanting to disband but the state party wants to continue on,” Linger said. “To me, the rights that should be protected are those of Oklahoma voters.”

The attorney general's legal memorandum said that even if members of the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party were authorized to nominate presidential electors, no Americans Elect Party candidates should appear on the ballot because the national party's board of directors chose not to field candidates for president or vice president. Electors, if chosen, would have no function; under Oklahoma law, electors appear only in brackets next to the candidates for president and vice president chosen by the party at the national level.

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