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Six takeaways from Tuesday’s vote

by | November 14th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (2)

I-votedWhile most of the attention in Oklahoma last week focused on the geological earthquake that shook the state and the political earthquake that shook the nation, the state election results got less detailed coverage. Here are a few of our important takeaways from the vote:

Turnout was up

A total of 1,451,056 Oklahomans cast ballots for President, according to data provided by the State Election Board. That’s 132,000 more than the Presidential votes cast in 2012 (1,332,872), a 9.9 percent increase, but almost identical to the numbers in 2008 (1,462,661) and 2004 (1,463,758). Oklahoma saw a big increase in early voting: over 152,000 people took advantage of in-person early voting, compared to a previous high of 114,000 in 2008. The turnout rate of registered voters was 67.3 percent, also up from 2012. We won’t have numbers on the turnout rate for eligible voters — which includes those who are not registered to vote – until the Census Bureau releases data from its voter survey, but it should be up slightly from the 52.4 percent of eligible voters who voted in 2012.

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Hofmeister indictment highlights need for better campaign finance laws (Capitol Updates)

by | November 10th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

dark moneyAlmost everyone seems to agree that excessive money has fouled our politics in this country, but no one can figure out what to do about it. The latest manifestation of the problem is the surprise filing of felony counts by Oklahoma County DA David Prater against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, the leaders of two respected Oklahoma education organizations, and two Republican political operatives.

The shocking case is a tragedy for those charged, their families and close friends, and the entire state, especially public education. It will also be a negative influence in the lives of those close to the situation who were not charged but whose actions will be scrutinized and who will be witnesses at trial. No matter the eventual outcome, a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money will be expended by everyone involved. Looking at the charges and the affidavit accompanying them, it seems unlikely the case will go away quickly or inexpensively.

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Who’s not voting, and why

by | November 7th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (0)

With Election Day tomorrow, many of us are busily getting prepared to exercise one of our basic civic rights by attending candidate forums, poring over election guides, studying the seven state ballot measures, and reviewing sample ballots.  But many Oklahomans — close to half — will likely not vote on November 8th. Who are these non-voters, why aren’t they voting, and what can we do about it?

Who Doesn’t Vote

Four years ago, just 51.3 percent of voting-age Oklahomans cast a ballot in the Presidential election, one of the lowest turnout rates in the nation. Two years ago, turnout in Oklahoma and nationally fell to its lowest level in decades, with fewer than one in three (32.3 percent) of eligible voters in this state casting a ballot in the contest for Governor and other state and federal races. Nationally, turnout in the 2014 midterm elections was just 41.9 percent of the voting-age population.

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Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know

by | October 18th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (5)
Photo by julochka / CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo by julochka / CC BY-NC 2.0

The original version of this post was authored by past OK Policy intern Forrest Farjadian. It was updated for 2016 by OK Policy intern Chelsea Fiedler.

Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters have a role in selecting judges. On November 8, Oklahoma voters will decide whether to retain two Supreme Court justices, two Court of Criminal Appeals judges and three Court of Civil Appeals judges. Judicial elections usually don’t attract as much publicity as other races, so we’re taking a look at how judges are chosen, what’s at stake in the elections, and how you can learn about the candidates.

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In last few weeks before election day, most candidates are running blind (Capitol Updates)

by | October 14th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (0)

blindfolded manSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Just 24 days until November 8th, election day. That’s the day every candidate running for office — from President of the United States to local office — is looking for. Most candidates don’t know for sure whether they’re winning or losing. Some, usually incumbents, have a good feel for where they stand because they’ve been there before. They’ve learned how to gauge the response they’re getting from voters, and they can evaluate whether their challenger is running a good campaign. But they don’t know for sure.

And candidates never know what’s going to hit them between now and election day that could change the race. The last few weeks of a campaign can bring anything from the spreading of false rumors to your opponent unexpectedly going up on television with a blockbuster new message. If your opponent thinks he is losing, he may dig up something from your past that you won’t have time or money to explain. Campaigns can get nasty toward the end. No one likes to lose, and some will throw anything they can at you to see if it sticks.

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Just Say Yes: Oklahoma voters have a history of affirming most state questions

by | September 28th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Elections, State Questions | Comments (0)

Oklahoma voters will decide seven state questions in November on subjects ranging from agriculture to the death penalty to the use of public funds for religious purposes. Of the seven questions, three were placed on the ballot through the initiative petition process, while four were referred to the ballot by the Legislature.

What does history suggest about the likely outcome of this year’s ballot measures? OK Policy looked at the results of all state questions in Oklahoma since 1989 using data collected by Ballotpedia.  The results are rather surprising. Of the 83 state questions submitted to the voters in the past 25 years,  65, or 78 percent, have been approved. Fewer than one in four have been rejected.

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More Oklahoma House races to watch this November (Capitol Updates)

by | September 16th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

oklahoma_governor_election_results_by_county_2014-svgSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

Last week I reviewed 10 House races that will be interesting to follow. As I said then, it’s hard to know if these races are actually competitive without in-depth analysis, but I think they are at least worth some attention for people who want to follow the legislature. This week we’ll look at 11 more House races. Keep in mind there may be others that are worth following, too.

HD 42 is being vacated by Rep. Lisa Billy (R-Purcell) due to term limits. The Republican candidate is Tim Downing who is an attorney in the office of Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Downing is also a minister and lists in his background working “two years for Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) on issues including opposition to Shariah law, defending Israel, opposing Obamacare, defending religious freedoms, protecting unborn children, fighting for military chaplains and defending traditional marriage.” The Democratic candidate is Liz George, a Blanchard native who graduated from OCU Law School with top honors and says she is running “because I feel compelled to take action to support our community and ensure our future success. I can no longer sit back and watch the current elected officials destroy public education, our economy, and the health and welfare of our neighbors and children.”

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Oklahoma House races to watch this November (Capitol Updates)

by | September 9th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

housechambersne_hiresWith 101 House seats, each up for re-election every 2 years, it’s a little difficult to know which races are left after the August runoff that remain truly competitive. I’ve counted 21 House races across the state that I think could develop into competitive races. Of those, 9 are currently held by Democrats and 12 by Republicans. Only 4 incumbents have races that look like they could end up being close. Three are Republican and one is a Democrat. There may be other close races, too.

In HD 2 incumbent John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) is in a race with Tom Stites (D-Sallisaw). Bennett has made anti-Muslim statements that have been controversial, but presumably he’ll pick up some support for the same reason. Stites, a Sallisaw businessman who holds an engineering degree from OSU and is an Air Force veteran, is a strong opponent. He is the son of former State Rep. J.T. States (D-Sallisaw).

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Nine Oklahoma Senate races to watch this November (Capitol Updates)

by | September 2nd, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (3)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

Last week’s runoff elections helped clear the picture for this November’s legislative races. With half the Senate’s 48 members up for election, it looks like there will be at least nine competitive Senate general election races — three seats currently held by Democrats and six by Republicans.

In Senate District 1, Michael Bergstrom, a high school English teacher in Bluejacket Public Schools, is the Republican candidate against John Myers, a long time veterinarian from Vinita. Bergstrom says he’s an educator, a Christian and a constitutional conservative. Myers says he wants to “promote and protect the assets” of Senate District 1 which means getting the state’s budget in order. SD 1 is currently held by Sen. Charles Wyrick, a Democrat.

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Oklahoma and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Runoffs

by | August 30th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (1)

empty polling placeLast week, Oklahomans went to the polls to decide 13 legislative primaries and one Congressional primary where no candidate received a majority in the initial primary ballot in June. More precisely, a few Oklahomans went to the polls. Less than one in five registered voters – 19.5 percent – voted in the runoff races in their district. In only one district, SD 19, did turnout exceed 26 percent.

As can be seen from the table, overall turnout in the 14 districts fell by 31.6 percent, or nearly one-third, between June and August. In all but one district, turnout for the runoff was lower than in the primary election. The exception was in SD 41, the highly-publicized contest in Edmond where Adam Pugh defeated Paul Blair. Since barely one in five registered Republicans voted in the initial primary in SD 41 in June, the bar for increased turnout in the runoff wasn’t that high. Three other runoff races saw fairly modest drops in participation, including Republican primaries in SD 19 (Enid) and HD 85 (Edmond) and the Democratic primary in HD 97 (Oklahoma City). Meanwhile, in eight races, turnout plunged by over one-third. The biggest drops were mostly in Tulsa-area seats (SD 39, HD 16, HD 67, HD 60, SD 25), where voters turned out in larger numbers in June to vote for Tulsa’s Mayor in an open primary.

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