A third political party has lost its bid to get its presidential and vice presidential nominees on Oklahoma's Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday to deny a request from the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party to have its nominees and the party's seven presidential electors listed.
The high court also denied the party's request to grant a temporary injunction requiring officials to halt printing ballots.
All state and local absentee ballots were printed Thursday afternoon, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.
“The Election Board is on schedule with our general election preparations, including being able to meet the Sept. 21 deadline to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters, as required by federal and state law,” he said. “We remain on schedule for county election boards to receive their shipments of absentee ballots by Monday.”
The printing of regular and sample ballots is expected to begin Friday, Ziriax said.
James Linger, the attorney for the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party, said he was hoping for a different outcome.
“I have to review the decision to decide if there should be a motion to reconsider or something,” said Linger, of Tulsa.
Election officials, after getting advice from the state attorney general's office, decided last month not to place the Americans Elect nominees on the ballot. National party officials never authorized the formation of a local party group or committee in Oklahoma, nor did they file the paperwork or complete the necessary tasks to be recognized as a political party in the state, Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader said during arguments before a Supreme Court referee last week.
The Supreme Court in an order, written by Chief Justice Steven Taylor, said Oklahoma laws regulate recognition of political parties and the placement of presidential electors on a ballot.
The Oklahoma Americans Elect Party members were never authorized to act on behalf of the Americans Elect party, which was formed in Washington, D.C., the order states.
“While this court recognizes the importance of choice and ballot access in elections, the law does not permit unauthorized groups to usurp the status of recognized political parties simply because those parties chose not to run candidates or chose to disband,” Taylor wrote. “If petitioners wish to become a recognized political party in Oklahoma, then they are required to go through the formation and recognition process (detailed in state law).”
Election officials sought the attorney general's advice after Rex Lawhorn, chairman of the Oklahoma Americans Elect Party, submitted his party's seven electors for the presidential election in early August; a day earlier, Kahil Byrd, a director of the Americans Elect Party, wrote Oklahoma election officials that the party was withdrawing its ballot line on the Nov. 6 ballot and was terminating its status as a qualified party in Oklahoma.
Lawhorn told election officials that members of the newly formed Oklahoma Americans Elect Party met earlier and agreed to have Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, James Gray, listed as their party's nominees.
Leader argued during last week's hearing 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. Electors, if chosen, would have no function; they signed an oath to vote for their party's presidential nominee, and the Americans Elect Party has no nominee.
Taylor wrote that the presidential elector nominees would be unable to fulfill their requirements and “cannot be placed on the November 2012 ballot.”
A Libertarian candidate hasn't been on Oklahoma's presidential ballot since 2000. In 2004 and 2008, Oklahoma was the only state that had only Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Write-in candidates are not allowed.
Americans Elect Party officials planned to hold the first-ever online nominating convention to select a president-and-vice president ticket, but the idea evaporated when no one stepped forward to run. Americans Elect Party officials decided in June to suspend their plans.
Efforts to obtain political party status this year in Oklahoma for the Libertarian Party came up short. To have names placed on state ballots, a political party has to get signatures of registered voters that equal at least 5 percent of the votes cast for the office at the top of the previous ticket, or for this year, the total votes cast in the 2010 gubernatorial race. The party needed 51,739 valid signatures.
The Libertarian Party earlier this year turned in about 56,000 signatures, of which 41,070 were determined to be registered voters. Americans Elect turned in about 90,000 signatures. It was determined 68,424 signatures were registered voters.