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Oklahoma Libertarians Prepare For First General Election As A Recognized Party

Color-coded ballots for each Oklahoma County district are pictured at the Oklahoma County Board of Elections in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 23, 2016. The ballots are color-coded according to party.
Sue Ogrocki
/
AP
Color-coded ballots for each Oklahoma County district are pictured at the Oklahoma County Board of Elections in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 23, 2016. The ballots are color-coded according to party.

Fifteen Libertarian candidates for state legislative and congressional races will join the party's presidential nominee Gary Johnson on the November ballot.

Oklahoma officially recognized the Libertarian Party in March, which allowed members and candidates to register as members and candidates for the first time, The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reports:

Ron Phillips, the state party treasurer, said having Libertarians on the ballot has spurred phenomenal growth in the party. The progress is “night and day” compared to when he first got involved in the party two years ago, he said. “It was just a handful of people that shared the same ideals and had a vision of growing, and within a matter of one year with ballot access, the number of Libertarians (who) supported so many views that we've had has grown tremendously,” Phillips said.

In order for the party to keep its status, Johnson will have to receive at least 2.5 percent of the popular vote in Oklahoma on November 8.

Party spokesman Dax Ewbank says it's hard to tell how many past candidates identified as Libertarians because they couldn't run as that party's nominee:

After the state gave official recognition, party leaders contacted as many members as possible to encourage Libertarians to run for office. He said more Libertarian candidates decided to run because of the opportunity of ballot access. Now, the party is focused on helping Libertarian campaigns and supporting Johnson in the presidential race. “It really has been able to give us something to rally around and something to work towards with the presidential campaigns and all the different races that we now have to work with,” Ewbank said. “It's given us just a clearer focus as a party, and doing so, of course, that helps other people recognize us as something that's legitimate and serious and a group that will have a real impact on the elections in November.”

After the March 21 recognition, voters only had 10 days to change their registration to Libertarian if they wanted to vote in this summer’s statewide primary. State law prohibits voters from changing their affiliation between April 1 and August 31 during even-numbered years, which is when both the presidential election and Oklahoma’s gubernatorial contest are held:

Ewbank said 806 people changed their registration in time to vote in the June primary elections. The Libertarian Party conducted an analysis of the votes compared to the locations of party registrants. It estimates that about 799 of those who registered voted in the primary for the U.S. Senate. The total voter turnout for the primary election was 2,616, according to state election board results. The Libertarian election was open to Independent voters, as well.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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