House District 51
OKLAHOMA CITY – A Stephens County legislator has been successful in his bid to get the sole challenger to his candidacy for re-election knocked off the ballot.
After considering evidence in the matter, the State Election Board ruled last Tuesday that Republican Gregory Dunson of Tuttle had not been registered to vote in House District 51 for the requisite six months prior to the filing period earlier this month.
That enabled Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, to gain a second two-year term. He joined 38 other state Representatives and eight state Senators who were effectively elected to new terms in the Legislature without having to campaign for office.
Dunson’s legal representative, Oklahoma City attorney Brian Putnam, asserted that “the real argument” was whether Boles’ interpretation of state statute “correctly assumes” that Dunson “must have been registered in District 51 for at least six months prior to the filing period” April 8-10.
The Oklahoma Constitution defines “qualified electors” as U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are Oklahoma residents, Putnam wrote. Thus, the Constitution requires only that members of the state House of Representatives be “qualified electors” in their respective district, “but does not ascribe any length of time for which they shall have been registered to vote” in that district.
Dunson “needed only to be a registered voter” in House District 51 prior to the date of filing “irrespective of the duration of time,” Putnam argued. Title 14, Section 108, of the Oklahoma Statutes decrees, “To file as a candidate for the House of Representatives in any representative district, a person must have been a registered voter in such district and a resident residing within such district for at least six (6) months immediately preceding the filing period prescribed by law.”
“There is no question” that the state residency clause “requires a candidate to have been a resident” of his/her district for at least six months, but the statute is ambiguous as to whether a candidate must also be registered to vote in that district for six months, Putnam wrote.
Boles, represented by Oklahoma City attorney Geoffrey Long, based his contention solely on the fact that Dunson was not a registered voter in HD 51 for six months prior to the filing period.
State Election Board records show that Dunson registered as a voter in House District 99 on April 10, 2018, and subsequently moved his voter registration to Grady County and House District 51 “sometime around Feb. 7, 2020.”
Because Dunson was not a registered voter in HD 51 for six months prior to the filing period, “he is not eligible to file as a candidate” for that legislative seat, Long maintained. The State Election Board agreed and struck Dunson’s name from the ballot.