The Oklahoma Election Board Got Put On Trial.
Republican Senator Bryce Marlatt of Woodward decided to challenge whether the lone Democrat filing for his seat was an authentic Democrat, and chose to file a challenge to Joshua Setzer's party affiliation. Setzer admits that he joined the Democrat party just 5 months ago (the state election law requires 6 months prior affiliation).
Marlatt sent Glenn Coffee to represent him as counsel for the case. Coffee had handled a few cases and this was the last case on today's docket. Little did Coffee know he'd have to present constitutional arguments and cite case laws from around the nation.
The Democratic party sent their own counsel to assist Mr. Setzer. Democrat party chair, Mark Hammons was the defendant's legal agent for the case. And Hammon's presence became a compelling argument in itself.
A State Interest In Restricting Free Speech & Association?
Hammons said that the state would have the right to require that the candidate is a citizen, not a criminal, living in the district, and meeting other state interests. But the candidate's requirement to be a long-established member of the party he's filing as, is not a state interest at all, according to his view. Hammons further stated that it might be plausible to say that another Democrat might be interested in challenging a new member of the party, and that the party leadership might also be reasonably concerned. But Hammons argued that the state, itself has no compelling interest.
Hammons further demonstrated that Libertarians were exempted from this long requirement, this Spring. They were allowed to run as Libertarians even though they just re-affiliate as new Libertarians just 2 weeks prior to running as candidates for that party. Hammons says that is an inequitable miscarriage of law.
Enter The Amicus...
Dr. Mauldin (the one Democrat of the 3 presiding board members serving as a 3-member tribunal) then asked the board's legal council if the defendant (Joshua Setzer) would have been a qualifying candidate if he was a Libertarian candidate seeking the seat. The legal counsel refused to answer, saying that it is not important to this narrow decision being made. Hammons would normally be able to object because the law is what's essentially on trial here. But again, the board was winging it and it was already past 6pm.
This court had no discovery, no rebuttal, and no listed structure at all. They were winging it and no one really knew what the rules of the venue were going to be from minute to minute.
Eventually, Chairman Steve Curry and member Tom Montgomery voted to sustain the challenge from Marlatt and through the Democrats out of this election, leaving the 3 republicans to decide the seat in the legislature.
Member Dr. Tim Mauldin dissented. The Republican-led election board and the board voted not guilty (with one Democrat dissent).
All 3 members of this board are very active political players for their parties and we would be willfully ignorant to disregard their political appointments. There is no talk of changing the law, jurisdiction, or desire to appoint a Libertarian to the ruling board.