There were 21 official challenges filed with the Oklahoma State Election board, for the 417 candidates seeking state office. 15 of the cases actually went before the tribunal of the State Election Board. (the other cases were dropped before their cause was called, in Monday's hearing.
Some candidates represented themselves, but several secured the legal services of counsel.
Only 3 candidates sustained a litigated challenge and prevailed. One of them was Brooke McGowan of Shawnee. She faced off with Former Senate Pro Tempore, Glenn Coffee, representing his client, Senator Ron Sharp (the incumbent). Despite the intimidation of the setting and high-powered attorneys, McGowan pressed her case, introducing herself; "I'm not an attorney. I don't have a law degree. I have a seminary degree."
McGowan masterfully began with the precedent set in previous cases on the docket; "You have clearly established that residency claims must be judged by intent.". She went on to indicate (and I paraphrase);
"I filed for office just prior to closing on our new home. Both our previous residence and our new residence are well within the district, but I chose to list the new home because that's where I would be residing. But since the home had serious plumbing deficiency, we had to find temporary residence while new toilets were being installed. The Senator had my summons served to the vacant house while it was vacant. My intent is and was to be as accurate and true to intent, as I could."
Attorney Coffee then claimed that McGowan missed a redundant box on her original voter registration, some time ago. At that point, The Election Board Secretary, Paul Ziriax said that it would be a "high bar" to rule technically on this, since the oath signed by voters affirms the matters in the box. At that point Senator Sharp's counsel looked petty and his case fell apart. McGowan was retained on the ballot on a unanimous vote of the 3-member tribunal.
A dramatic case was litigated as the last matter on the docket. the Democrat State Party Chairman, Mark Hammons, defended the candidacy of Joshua Setzer. The hearing room transformed into a venue of precedent proportions when the very statutes governing the election board were challenged.
Setzer is a recent party-switch and the state statute requires him to be a member of the party for 6 months before he can be a candidate in the name of that party. Hammons was the strongest proponent to represent Setzer because he essentially serves as a witness as well as counsel. Hammons insisted that only party rules should govern such matters, and the state has no compelling government interest in restricting Setzer's 1st Amendment constitutional rights.
The case is also made stronger by the fact that the Libertarian candidates only had to be registered party members for 15 days prior to filing, but Democrats and Republicans had to be registered 6 months prior. The Board refused Coffee's request for a delay in the hearing for 10 days. Coffee had thought he was going to earn easy money for this case. He expected a 'slamdunk' ruling because the candidate reregistered 5 months ago and did not dispute a failure to meet statutory requirements. When the board withdrew into executive session, they decided to wrap up these hearings today and pressed on. Then the boards's retained counsel essentially became an ally for Coffee and defended the election board's right to honor the statute, using several federal cases, including Citizens United and some Scalia opinions.
The board rendered a split decision along party lines (2 republicans and 1 Democrat).
Ok. Election Board Bulletin.
Oklahoma State Election Board
Opinion of the Editor
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David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...