Patrick B. McGuigan
The Oklahoma state Election Board on Wednesday (August 29) removed the Americans Elect party from the November general election ballot, effectively knocking out Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
The decision was made based on the legal counsel of the state Attorney General's office.
Earlier this summer the state party had designated a slate of presidential electors and named Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as their candidate, even as the national party’s directors spiked the group’s nationwide drive to provide an alternative to the two major parties.
Paul Ziriax, secretary of the state Election Board, said in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK Wednesday morning:
“You have previously asked me about the conflicting instructions the State Election Board received from the Directors of the Americans Elect party and a local group claiming to on act on behalf of the Americans Elect party. (The Board of Directors of the party instructs that the Americans Elect party will not field any candidates for President or Vice President, while the local group instructs that the party has chosen candidates for President and Vice President – the same candidates chosen by the Libertarian Party in other states.)”
Ziriax said Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader advised the Election Board it “should not place the Americans Elect Party President and Vice-Presidential candidates or Presidential Electors on the November, 2012 General Election Ballot in Oklahoma.”
Ziriax told CapitolBeatOK, “Our staff will proceed with our General Election ballot preparations accordingly.”
Tulsa attorney Jim Linger may sue the state on behalf of the Americans Elect Party of Oklahoma. Linger, also attorney for the Oklahoma Libertarian Party, had planned a lawsuit against Oklahoma’s ballot access law in January, but held off on that in belief that the Americans Elect line would stand.
Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, said Leader’s letter “contains no references to any court cases to justify his opinion. The 9th circuit ruled earlier this year that trademark law has no effect on election law concerning political parties.”
Winger contends the Election Board and Leader “have acted in a deceitful manner.”
In his 20-page analysis of the legal questions involved, Leader said the national group retained control of the party’s ballot line throughout, and that the national directors’ decision held in the state.
In an essay published early this month, Winger reviewed a range of state and federal precedent that he believed supported his view that the Oklahoma activists would prevail and keep the ballot line.
Americans Elect gained ballot status in March, after a successful petition campaign that enjoyed the support of David Boren, now president of the University of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma effort began with fanfare in January, achieving success in March, after a Libertarian-organized drive fell short of the required signatures. Oklahoma is widely considered one of the most difficult states for ballot access.
Just weeks ago, local activists submitted electors to state officials, in support of Johnson, but on a parallel track the national Americans Elect party informed the Election Board it was abandoning its drive “in all states in which Americans Elect has obtained a ballot access line” with the “unanimous written consent” of the national group’s directors.