In The Know: General election today | Majority of state’s registered voters now Republican | COVID cases top 125,000

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma voters head to the polls amid pandemic to pick leaders, resolve state questions: Oklahoma voters head to the polls Tuesday to voice their preferences for president and Congress, while also deciding whether to take another big step to reduce the state’s high incarceration rate. Through Monday afternoon, about one-fifth of Oklahoma’s registered voters had already cast ballots, either through the mail or in person. [The Oklahoman]

Before election, GOP gets boost in registered voters: For the first time in state history, Republicans make up more than half of all of Oklahoma’s registered voters. The Oklahoma Election Board released its final pre-election voter statistics Monday, which showed that Republicans account for just over 50% of the state’s nearly 2.3 million registered voters. [Oklahoma Watch] The last time a majority of voters belonged to one party prior to a presidential election was Nov. 1, 2004, when Democrats made up 51.3% of registered voters. Democrats are 33.23% this year. [The Oklahoman]

In Oklahoma Legislative races, GOP rakes in PAC cash: Republicans took in far more money from political action committees than Democrats in Oklahoma’s legislative races this year, a review of campaign finance data finds. An Oklahoma Watch analysis of the latest Oklahoma Ethics Commission data, which includes contributions through Oct. 27, shows that more than $4.1 million has been spent by PACs since the start of 2020 on the 126 legislative seats up for election this year. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma cracks 125,000 total COVID cases as active cases reach new high and 7-day average climbs: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Monday 1,084 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 125,195. In the month of October, 35,563 more Oklahomans had confirmed cases of COVID-19, the most in any single month so far and a 25% jump from the previous high in September. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Coronavirus spread continues in Oklahoma as political will for mask mandates is lacking: The pandemic is getting worse in Oklahoma, and science says mask wearing is one of the best ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. But with spotty mandates, mitigating the virus comes down to whether Oklahomans are willing to wear a mask voluntarily. [KOSU]

Lankford seeks answers regarding insurance coverage for COVID-19 tests: U.S. Sen. James Lankford joined an effort Monday to make sure health insurance companies cover the costs of COVID-19 tests, whether or not a person had symptoms when getting tested. [The Oklahoman]

Op-Ed: COVID-19 is taking so much from us … needlessly: COVID-19 is taking so much from us. It takes playdates, birthday parties, gymnastic meets. It takes away our work, our health and sometimes our lives. It is all so unnecessary. Consistent mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing by all of our community would drive levels of the disease to a manageable state in weeks. If we do not do these things, our hospitals will soon be overrun, and people will suffer and die because there’s “no room at the inn.” [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Congressman Tom Cole: ‘Native issues aren’t Democrat or Republican’: Chickasaw citizen and Rep. Tom Cole is seeking re-election in Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District. The co-chair of the Native American caucus touts his willingness to work across the aisle on issues affecting Indian Country. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Pardon and parole board director says agency is working through commutation backlog: State parole investigators have finished reviewing 1,800 commutation applications from a backlog of around 3,000, according to an executive director’s report given to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Jail trust to return some CARES Act money to county: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority voted today to return some of the federal CARES Act funds it had designated for COVID-19-related improvements at the Oklahoma County Jail. Six trustee members voted to approve a list of improvements for the jail while trustees Kevin Calvey and Danny Honeycutt abstained. In doing so, the OCCJA — called the jail trust — will return about $25 million to the broader county government and retain about $15 million for use at the jail. [NonDoc] The most significant matter of business at Tuesday’s meeting was to accept and approve a list of planned expenditures of CARES Act funds. [OKC Free Press]

Education News

Rose State College is working to become a haven for charter schools, a lucrative plan that could shake up the education landscape in OKC: Rose State College, a public, two-year institution in Midwest City that has experienced years of enrollment and funding declines, is positioning itself as a haven for charter schools dissatisfied with their current authorizer or facing financial struggles. The move could allow the college to receive millions in additional tax dollars and alter the education landscape of Oklahoma City. [The Frontier]

Listen Frontier: Student mobility a problem for OKC, Tulsa schools (audio): Dr. Marsha Herron is the chief of equity and student supports for the Oklahoma City Public School district. She discussed student mobility, a challenge for the district that has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Frontier]

Tulsa Public Schools approve policy requiring all students, employees, visitors to wear masks inside schools: The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education on Monday evening approved a policy requiring students, employees and visitors to wear masks in school buildings. [Tulsa World]

Bixby schools superintendent announces school closure, quarantines: Bixby Public Schools Superintendent Rob Miller announced school will be canceled Tuesday, with the possibility of longer closures, due to a case of COVID-19 within the district’s transportation department. [Tulsa World]

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister: Protect one another to keep our kids in school:  [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman

General News

Vandals hang coyote carcass from Black Lives Matter sign in Stillwater neighborhood: Vandalism was taken to to a disturbing level in a Stillwater resident’s yard last weekend. The homeowners believe it was politically-motivated. The homeowner and her daughter have had a large wooden Black Lives Matter sign in their yard on North Washington Street since George Floyd’ s death in May. On Sunday, they awoke to find a coyote carcass hanging from that sign. [Stillwater News Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • With trees damaged across Oklahoma City, cleanup will take months [The Oklahoman]
  • Lineman critically injured, frustration rises as power outages enter second week [The Oklahoman]
  • 100,000 Oklahomans still powerless after historic storm [CNHI via Claremore Progress]
  • Tulsa city councilors to discuss allowing drive-through service at medical marijuana dispensaries [Tulsa World]
  • Drought conditions remain across northwest Oklahoma [Woodward News]

Quote of the Day

“It was for me one of the most important events in my life here in the U.S. I felt very honored to (vote), and it’s a big responsibility at the same time.” 

-Luis Garcia Buchard of Oklahoma City, who voted in his first presidential election this fall after becoming a U.S. citizen in August 2019. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Net change of Oklahoma voters since Jan. 15, 2020. (As of Nov. 1, 2020, Republicans represent 50.01% of registered Oklahoma voters, while Democrats are 33.23%, Independents are 16.10%, and Libertarians are 0.66%.)

[Source: Oklahoma State Election Board]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Is it safe to vote in person? Experts say yes — with a few conditions: Everybody should have a plan to vote. And if you’ve considered leaving your house to go to the polls, you should know: Voting in person is relatively safe even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has presented the United States with a daunting logistical challenge as the country attempts to conduct a presidential election in the middle of an infectious disease outbreak. Not only are states having to figure out how to distribute and collect an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots and create safe places for people to vote in person, Americans are facing a stressful question: Is it safe to go vote? The answer, according to three public health experts I consulted, is yes — with some conditions. [Vox]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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