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Oklahoma GOP Tells Independents They Aren't Welcome in Primary Elections

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

Channel 9 in Oklahoma City reported Tuesday that the state's Republican Party decided not to let independent voters participate in its primary elections in 2016. This means that if independent voters want to participate in the first stage of the public election process (i.e. taxpayer-funded election process) the only option they have is the Democratic ballot.

"As of last month, Oklahoma had 261,199 registered independent voters, or about 13 percent of the state's 1.9 million registered voters," Channel 9 reports.

In Oklahoma, the two major parties are allowed to decide who gets to participate in the primary stage of the election process. Until July 2015, both parties used closed primaries, but the Democratic Party has sense opened its doors to independent voters.

The news from Oklahoma comes shortly after a similar story in Montana broke. There, the state's GOP is suing the state over its open primary election law in an effort to make primaries exclusive to party members. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris recently ruled that the case would go to trial.

Typically, it is the majority party in power that has the biggest objection to independent voters participating in taxpayer-funded primaries. In Hawaii, for instance, the party sued the state in an effort to close its primaries, arguing that open primaries violate the party's constitutional right to association.

Yet, the party wasn't able to provide sufficient evidence that there was a severe burden on the party's rights. In Hawaii and Montana, state law prohibits the parties from closing their primaries. In Oklahoma, as well as many other states, two private organizations get to decide which voters get complete access to the voting franchise and which do not.


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