Oklahoma Supreme Court Explains Why State Officers of Americans Elect Cannot Nominate Presidential Electors

Here is the short decision of the Oklahoma State Supreme Court in Lawhorn v Ziriax, 2012 OK 78. The decision implies, but not does explicitly say, that qualified parties in Oklahoma cannot nominate presidential electors unless their party holds a national convention. This is based on an incidental part of the election law that says presidential elector candidates must take an oath to support the candidate chosen at that party’s national convention.

The irony of this interpretation is that even if Americans Elect had gone ahead with its original plans, it never planned to nominate a presidential or vice-presidential candidate at a national convention. Instead, the party expected to nominate via an on-line vote of any registered voter in the nation who wished to participate.

The decision also mentions that the national Americans Elect rules do not authorize any state party organizations, which implicitly seems to say that the national rules of the Americans Elect Party take precedence over Oklahoma state election laws, which give state parties the authority to choose presidential elector candidates. Yet in 2000, the last year the Libertarian Party was a qualified party in Oklahoma, the Libertarians passed a bylaw saying all registered voters could vote in the Oklahoma Libertarian primary. The party said it had a First Amendment Freedom of Association right to decide for itself how to run its nomination process. The party actually won that case in the 10th circuit, but Oklahoma appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Libertarian Party did not have a constitutional right to invite all voters to vote in its primary. Yet now, Oklahoma’s highest state court seems to be saying that national party rules can supersede not only state election law, but the wishes of party members in the state. A majority of registered members of Americans Elect had participated in the nomination of Gary Johnson for president.

The decision mentions that national leaders of Americans Elect have a trademark on the name. The decision therefore implies, but does not say, that trademarks for political parties can overcome state election law. There is no authority for that idea in any other reported decision, and the 9th circuit ruled last year that trademarks for political party names cannot be used to overcome state election laws.

16 comments

  1. One more reason to abolish the time bomb Electoral College EVIL SUPER DANGEROUS minority rule gerrymander *system*.

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  2. Robert McHugh · · Reply

    Oklahoma, maybe 1 of 50 states to have no alternative to the 2 party stranglehold. I think they have a big problem that they need to look at seriously.

  3. So glad to see that the Oklahoma Supreme Court fell for everyone of the State AG’s opinion. What a bunch of hacks.

  4. I believe that Richard Grayson, who is the American Elect congressional nominee in Arizona’s 4th District got it right when he rebranded the Arizona party as the American Elites Party. Political Parties are not private clubs. If Americans Elect wanted to be a private club, they should have said so to begin with so we could have started ignoring them sooner.

  5. Nick Kruse · · Reply

    “The irony of this interpretation is that even if Americans Elect had gone ahead with its original plans, it never planned to nominate a presidential or vice-presidential candidate at a national convention. Instead, the party expected to nominate via an on-line vote of any registered voter in the nation who wished to participate.”

    I don’t agree with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling. But in its defense on this issue, the bylaws of the Americans Elect party stated that the on-line vote IS its national convention.

  6. Richard Winger · · Reply

    Well, the Americans Elect state officers declared that their state convention was also their national convention. “Convention” isn’t generally defined in election law codes. This came up in Iowa, when Gary Johnson’s spot on the ballot was challenged. The Iowa Libertarians held a “state convention” on the Iowa State Fairgrounds and passers-by signed as “delegates”. And the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Auditor found that since “convention” isn’t defined in the law, they had no authority to say that wasn’t a proper convention. And a lower state court agreed as well.

  7. […] Article: Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » Oklahoma Supreme Court Explains Why State Officers of American…. Oklahoma Add […]

  8. Walter Ziobro · · Reply

    In effect, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, at the bidding of its own state officials, sacrificed the sovereignty of the state to keep Gary Johnson off the ballot. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  9. Tom Yager · · Reply

    #2 It’s not maybe, it’s for certain. The Libertarians are sure to be on the ballot everywhere else but in Michigan and Pennsylvania. If the GOP dirty tricks succeed in those states, Jill Stein is on the ballot in both. Rocky Anderson and Virgil Goode are also on the ballot in Michigan.

  10. Gary should not have said he was going to be on all 50 states, now its a downer and he sounds like a liar. 47 states.

  11. Robert McHugh · · Reply

    10- In all fairness, no one expected the onslaught of GOP opposition to ballot access for Libertarians. The cost and time involved has been great. Gary gave a good faith statement that looked to be close to true just a week ago. I am still optimistic that 49 is possible, and for a Libertarian that is pretty good news. That being said, Gary has been the most charismatic and energetic Libertarian candidate for President I have ever seen. I think he will do us proud in November.

  12. Gary has my vote. Glad I live in Florida.

  13. Scott Campbell · · Reply

    No one with either a conscience or any sense of integrity should believe that the lawsuit brought by the AG or the decision rendered by the OK Supremes is anything other than political patronage being repaid. The only things either of those two parties understand is money and power and they understand them on an instinctual basis.

  14. What I don’t understand is how they manage to square this decision with existing precedent elsewhere in the country- no one challenged the Alabama Democratic Party’s decision (taken by its members at a state convention) to nominate George Wallace instead of Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968. Clearly, a state party can deviate from the national one if it so desires…

  15. Cyric Renner · · Reply

    So Oklahoma will be the only state in the union that is restricting ballot access to the corrupt duopoly correct ? There is nothing more the Libertarian Party can do ? A federal court appeal maybe ?

    If not, then this is a disgrace really, an absolute disgrace. This Kangaroo court of political hacks should be ashamed.

    Every presidential cycle the lengths they will go to exclude giving people a choice is truly remarkable, but this time they have truly have outdone themselves.

    Incidentally, I think Governor Johnson has a good shot in the two remaining states. In PA he has more then double the required signtures and the district court has ruled in his favour. In Michigan, I am confident they will win their appeal because the Judge was factually wrong in the initial decision.

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