On June 14, 2016, Rocky De La Fuente sued Oklahoma over the requirement that independent presidential candidates this year need 40,047 valid signatures. Since then, Jill Stein has intervened in the case, De La Fuente v Ziriax, w.d., 5:16cv-914.
Although it is too late for this lawsuit to affect who gets on the ballot this year, the case is beginning to move, and a decision on declaratory relief is likely next year. On October 7 the state filed a motion to dismiss, relying entirely on the point that the Oklahoma presidential petition requirement has been upheld in the past.
The state’s brief does not acknowledge that the Oklahoma law has changed since those earlier precedents, which were from 1996 and 2000. Back then, as difficult as the independent presidential petition was, at least it required fewer signatures than the Oklahoma petition for a newly-qualifying party. But ever since 2015, Oklahoma has required fewer signatures for a new party than for an independent presidential candidate. Courts in other states have struck down independent candidate petition requirements when they were more difficult than the party petition requirements, in Alabama, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina. This year Oklahoma required 24,745 signatures for a party, which makes it difficult to explain why the state needs 40,047 for a single independent presidential candidate.
The Oklahoma law also changed in 2016 on a separate matter. The old law required the names of all the presidential candidates to be listed on the ballot, but the new law does not. The bill that made this change is SB 1108. The new law gives the State Election Board the power to decide whether to print the names of the electors on the ballot. For 2016, there are only three presidential candidates on the ballot, and there aren’t many state ballot measures, so the entire ballot can fit on a single piece of paper. Therefore, for this year, the State Election Board decided to leave the electors’ names on the ballot.
Posted on October 15, 2016 by Richard Winger