OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A third-party political group whose presidential candidate was denied a spot on Oklahoma's November ballot urged the state Supreme Court Wednesday to prevent ballots from being printed and order its candidate included.
But an attorney for the state told a Supreme Court referee that prohibiting the Nov. 6 election ballots from being printed until the issue is resolved might delay their delivery to Oklahoma military members who are deployed overseas.
The Americans Elect Party of Oklahoma requested an injunction against printing of the ballots last week after Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said the agency's general counsel, Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader, had issued a legal memorandum recommending the party's candidates not be placed on the ballot.
"I think there's a truckload of doubt here," Leader told Supreme Court referee Barbara Swimley during oral arguments.
Americans Elect's attorney, Jim Linger, said printing the ballots without the party's presidential and vice presidential nominees would deny Oklahoma voters a choice on Election Day.
"I think they've complied with the law," Linger said. He said the state's election laws should be interpreted broadly to protect the rights of voters.
Swimley said the group's request for an injunction could be decided by the state's highest court by Thursday.
The attorneys indicated the issue may hinge on whether the national party or the state party has the authority to name presidential nominees and electors.
Americans Elect gathered enough signatures in Oklahoma to qualify for a spot on the general election ballot, but the national group that was attempting to nominate a bipartisan ticket suspended its effort earlier this year after no candidates emerged from its nominating process.
The group's general counsel notified state Election Board officials in August it had dissolved its status as a qualified political party.
But the party's Oklahoma chapter claims it held an online convention in July and selected Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as its nominee for president and James Gray for vice president.
Linger argued that the Americans Elect Party of Oklahoma can operate independently of the national party in nominating candidates.
"We have a conflict between the state party and the national party," he said. "The national party doesn't want anyone on the ballot. In fact, they want to disband and fold up their tents and go away. It's all going to come to nothing."
But Leader said Americans Elect national board of directors, and not the state group, was empowered to select the party's presidential electors.
"At least, these people are acting without authority," Leader said. At worst, he said the group was attempting to usurp the national party to benefit of Libertarian Party candidates who have not succeeded in other attempts to appear on the ballot.
Earlier this year, the Libertarian Party failed to obtain the required number of signatures needed to be a recognized political party in Oklahoma.
Leader produced an affidavit from the Election Board indicating federal law requires that absentee ballots be mailed to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election. The deadline for mailing the ballots for the 2012 general election is Sept. 21, according to the affidavit.