OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A third-party group that gathered enough signatures to become a recognized political party in Oklahoma plans to sue the state Election Board over its decision to deny the group’s presidential candidate a spot on the November ballot, the chapter’s state chairman said Thursday.
Americans Elect gathered enough signatures in Oklahoma to qualify for a spot on the ballot, but the national group seeking to nominate a bipartisan ticket suspended its effort earlier this year after no candidates emerged from its nominating process. The group’s general counsel sent a letter to state Election Board officials earlier this month announcing that it had dissolved its status as a qualified political party.
But the Oklahoma chapter of Americans Elect claims it held an online convention in July and selected Libertarian candidates Gary Johnson as its nominee for president and James Gray for vice president.
Americans Elect state chairman Rex Lawhorn said the group plans to seek an injunction from the Oklahoma Supreme Court that would prevent the state Election Board from removing their candidates.
“If you’re not going to let us do it, show us where in Oklahoma law it tells us we can’t,” Lawhorn said. “We’ve always had the belief that what the law in Oklahoma doesn’t say you can’t do, you should be able to do.”
Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax announced Wednesday that the agency’s general counsel issued a legal memorandum advising against placing the Americans Elect Party’s candidates on the ballot.
It was the Americans Elect Party’s national board of directors — not the state group — that was empowered to select the party’s presidential electors, Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader wrote in a memo to the board.
“Under these facts, Mr. Lawhorn’s local group is at best a group acting in good faith, but a group acting without authority to act for the Americans Elect Party,” Leader wrote. “At worst, Mr. Lawhorn’s local group is a group acting to hijack the Americans Elect party for the benefit of the Libertarian Party’s candidates for president and vice president — candidates who have not succeeded in other attempts to appear on the ballot in Oklahoma.”
The Libertarian Party earlier this year fell short of the required number of signatures needed to be a recognized political party in Oklahoma.
Tulsa attorney Jim Linger said he plans to ask the state Supreme Court this week to assume original jurisdiction in the case and to prevent state Election Board officials from denying the group’s candidates a spot on the ballot.
“More than 90,000 Oklahomans who signed the petition wanted the party recognized,” Linger said. “They feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under them, and this is what they decided to do.
“They want a third choice in Oklahoma.”