By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – The presidential ballot status of Americans Elect remains murky in Oklahoma, even as state election officials face a tight deadline to start preparing official ballot forms.
State members of the party, which gained a ballot line in March, submitted electors Wednesday, in support of the Libertarian party’s nominee. However, on Tuesday the national Americans Elect organization sent, via express mail, formal notification to state election officials that the party “has terminated or otherwise dissolved” its party status in Oklahoma, “effective immediately.” All future correspondence in the matter was directed to a Boston lawyer.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren, acting in his private capacity, was the key player in the national group’s efforts in Oklahoma (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/editor-s-notebook-open-shop-affirmed-for-state-local-projects-americans-elect-gets-ballot-line-for-n). This morning (August 10), he told CapitolBeatOK, “Since Americans Elect did not field a ticket in the presidential election, I will not be involved in any of their state and local efforts.”
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax declined to comment on the situation at length in an interview with CapitolBeatOK. He said, “This is a very unusual situation, so we are seeking legal advice from our counsel at the Attorney General’s office about how to proceed.”
Rex Lawhorn, state chairman of Americans Elect, submitted seven electors for the party’s nominee on August 7. He said the electors were pledged to support former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, for president, and James P. Gray for vice president. Johnson and Gray are the nominees of the Libertarian Party, which does not have ballot status in Oklahoma.
In a letter dated August 6, Kahlil Byrd of the national party told the Oklahoma state election board the national party voted in July to terminate its status “as a qualified political party in all states in which it has so qualified.” Byrd’s letter conveyed “unanimous written consent” of the national group’s directors to withdraw the party’s “ballot line in all states in which Americans Elect has obtained a ballot access line.”
Ziriax announced March 10 that Americans Elect had qualified for a presidential ballot line.
Boren, former U.S. Senator and a one-term governor of Oklahoma, helped the group gather some 90,000 signatures, submitted to the state election board in late February.
At that time, Boren – stressing he was acting in a personal role and not in his current capacity as president of the University of Oklahoma, thanked Americans Elect “for assuring that Oklahomans and Americans will have a third alternative in the Presidential Election this November if it is needed.”
“If it is needed,” the group intended, Boren said then, to hold a nationwide online “convention” to pick a Democrat and a Republican “to run as a team for President and Vice President. It would be the first bipartisan national ticket in modern history.”
Ziriax said Americans Elect garnered 68,424 valid signatures in the petition process. The organization had filed a “Notice of Intent to Forum a Recognized Political Party” on October 3, 2011.
In contrast, the state Libertarian Party fell short of ballot status. Activists filed their notice of intent On May 3, 2011, then turned petitions in on March 1. However, only 41,070 valid signatures were turned in.
To secure a ballot line, petitioners had to gather a number (51,739) equal to five percent of the votes cast in the 2010 general election for governor.
Oklahoma election officials plan to prepare ballot materials in early September, to meet a September 21 deadline allowing timely distribution of absentee ballot materials to military personnel.