In The Know: Lawmakers propose additional barriers to absentee voting; Gov.’s emergency powers extended; and more

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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Statement: SB 1779 would introduce unneeded barriers to voting, invite lawsuits: Just a day after the Oklahoma Supreme Court removed barriers to absentee voting, the Oklahoma Legislature is quietly advancing a bill to make it harder to vote by mail. The Oklahoma House will consider SB 1779 as soon as Wednesday. SB 1779 would require voters to include a photocopy of identification, which would put Oklahoma as one of only three states with similar requirements. In 2021, it would reinstate the notarization requirement — the very one struck down by the Supreme Court on Monday. [OK Policy] Find your legislator

Oklahoma News

Legislature extends Stitt’s emergency powers to respond to pandemic: Legislators on Tuesday approved extending for 30 days Gov. Kevin Stitt’s emergency powers for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in order for the emergency declaration to remain in effect, legislators are asking Stitt for additional information on what emergency powers he used in the past 30 days. [The Oklahoman] Passed while both bodies convened in a special session, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1X requires Stitt to provide written documentation about what powers he is exercising under the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act. [Tulsa World] The Senate Concurrent Resolution is intended to clarify the source of authority for Stitt’s executive orders, which said Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-OKC, called “very confusing.” [NonDoc] The act was passed a month ago with few questions asked and with only one nay vote tallied in each chamber of the Legislature. On Tuesday, it was extended only after about an hour of discussion and debate in the House and about 20 minutes’ worth in the Senate. [The Journal Record]

House Republicans move to counter court ruling on absentee ballots: Moving swiftly to negate a Monday Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling, Republican lawmakers expect to push legislation through the House of Representatives on Wednesday that would reinstate the notarization requirement thrown out by the court while making temporary allowances for the COVID-19 epidemic. Senate Bill 1779, which originally dealt with “ballot harvesting,” has been retooled by Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, and is expected to be heard on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. [Tulsa World] OK Policy: There is little evidence that requiring photo ID is needed to prevent fraud. SB 1779’s requirements introduce an unneeded voting barrier for citizens to cast their ballots safely. 

COVID-19: Nine more deaths reported as 4,100 cases confirmed in Oklahoma: State health officials reported Tuesday that nine more Oklahomans have died from COVID-19. So far 247 people have died from the disease in Oklahoma. State health officials reported 83 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the state’s total to 4,127. More than 2,600 of those patients have recovered. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

As contact tracing ramps up, Oklahoma official worries about cooperation: As the state Health Department ramps up a program to identify people potentially exposed to COVID-19, a key official is hoping Oklahomans will be willing to cooperate with efforts aimed at minimizing the spread of the disease while the economy is reopening. [The Oklahoman]

U.S. infection rate rising as rural communities feel impact: Take the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation and the numbers show the rest of the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction, notably in rural areas, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis has found. [AP News via Tulsa World]

With lockdowns relaxing, talk of reopening nursing homes emerges: Deaths of nursing home residents and staff reached triple digits this week and facility officials say the number will likely continue to climb. But a state legislator wants to allow visitors back into nursing homes as early as June 1. [Oklahoma Watch] State Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau, is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to push the Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue guidelines to begin the soft reopening of Oklahoma’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. [KTUL]

State Government News

Moments of truth: Four remaining scenarios for Medicaid expansion: Medicaid expansion is inching closer to reality in Oklahoma. Legislative leaders announced a budget deal Monday that includes funding to expand the state’s Medicaid program and extend health coverage to more than 220,000 low-income residents. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy has provided information and resources to better understand the issues around SQ 802, which has a June 30 vote scheduled.

AG opinion: Governor’s recent tribal gaming compacts prohibited by state law: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his authority by entering into gaming compacts with two tribes that would permit sports betting and other types of gambling that are prohibited by state law, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in an official attorney general opinion released Tuesday. [The Oklahoman] “Because the governor lacks authority to ‘enter into’ the agreements he has sent to you, those agreements fail to meet the requirements of (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) to constitute a valid gaming compact under federal law,” Hunter wrote to U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Berhardt. [AP News]

Federal Government News

Gov. Stitt announces federal approval of crisis counseling funds for COVID-19: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved another portion of his ongoing request for disaster assistance as part of the state’s major disaster declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World] This approval makes funding available for crisis counseling, which will help support mental health initiatives designed to benefit individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. [Claremore Daily Progress]

Tribal relief money now going out, Trump administration says: The Trump administration on Tuesday began distributing relief money to Indian tribes, after weeks of delays and a lawsuit by the Cherokee Nation and other tribes. [The Oklahoman]

‘The government is sending checks to dead guys’: When Brian Davis got a letter from the IRS addressed to his deceased father Monday, he initially assumed it was a refund owed to his dad’s estate from several years back. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Executions in Oklahoma to remain on hold: Death row inmates in Oklahoma have been given until July 6 to raise their concerns about the state’s new execution procedures. “It is my intention to keep the case moving,” U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said Tuesday at a hearing in Oklahoma City federal court. [The Oklahoman] “It is no secret that inadequate training is the significant factor as to why there were problems in Oklahoma’s past executions,” said Dale Baich, one of the attorneys representing death row prisoners. [AP News]

DA accuses Pardon and Parole Board members of bias: Citing bias, an Oklahoma district attorney has requested two members of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board no longer be allowed to hear cases litigated in Payne and Logan counties. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Clarity sought on PPP loan forgiveness: Oklahoma businesses that were among the first to receive funding through the Paycheck Protection Program now have only about a month left in which to spend the bulk of their loans on wages in order to be eligible to have those loans forgiven. [The Journal Record]

Taskforce formed to explore for beef packing and processing in Oklahoma: Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association have formed a taskforce with the mission of exploring opportunities that can be provided to Oklahoma beef cattlemen and women specifically in the area of beef packing and processing. [Duncan Banner]

Report identifies potential impacts of COVID-19 on Oklahoma’s food industry: Experts from the Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center evaluated the potential impact of COVID-19 on the state’s food industry from March to mid-April and compiled a report of current impacts as a starting point for future assessments and recovery planning. [Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma cannabis industry smashes record monthly sales number in April: According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, dispensaries remitted almost $9.8 million in state taxes during April. That includes traditional sales taxes and the 7% medical marijuana levy. The tally smashes the previous record of $7.8 million set in March, and is the highest month-to-month increase since last summer. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Shift to distance learning highlights stark inequities in internet connection: A mid-March survey by the Oklahoma Education Department showed that nearly one-quarter of the state’s public school students, about 167,000, don’t have internet access at home. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy: Oklahoma needs to account for all students as schools move to distance learning, and broadband internet is more important than ever.

Despite Gov. Stitt’s comments, decisions about schools reopening will be local: Local school boards and district administrators across Oklahoma are still studying a variety of school calendars and learning models as they plan for the 2020-21 academic year amid ongoing uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World] “All of our districts right now are thinking about the fall and they are building contingency plans,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. [KFOR]

Oklahoma higher education ‘turning on a dime’ to handle COVID-19 crisis (Video): Campuses will have to keep adapting as the COVID-19 crisis evolves, with a lot of decisions still to be made before students return for the fall semester, said Glen Johnson, the chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. [Tulsa World]

Coronavirus puts plans of college graduates up in the air: OU closed its campus in March, and the university won’t re-open for classes until fall. But in many ways, for the Class of 2020, the loss of a moment in time is the least of their problems. [NonDoc]

General News

Impact team develops plan to protect Oklahoma’s homeless population during pandemic: The Central Oklahoma Community Health Impact Team has developed a plan to house up to 190 individuals who are experiencing homelessness who are being discharged from the hospital, or those who do not require hospitalization but are unable to isolate at home. [KFOR]

Oklahoma traffic counts dropped over 30 percent as COVID-19 caused many residents to stay home: Traffic volumes on some Oklahoma highways dropped by more than 30 percent during April as government officials closed down the economy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Tim Gatz told commissioners Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Mayor amends order, city moves case to federal court [Norman Transcript]
  • Judge rules salons in Norman can reopen as part of Phase I plan [FOX25]
  • 67 cases, 4 deaths, 42 recovered: COVID-19 in Rogers County [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • Texas County up to 252 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 3 deaths [ABC7]
  • Enid approves COVID-19 plan, 3 amendments [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Meinders selected for another term as Mayor of Woodward [Woodward News]
  • City of Chickasha to distribute stimulus funds to boost local economy [The Express-Star]
  • Eight COVID-19 cases confirmed at McAlester long-term care facility [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Numbers go up statewide with Stephens County numbers staying the same [Duncan Banner]
  • Choctaw Nation recovery plan to begin May 15 [McAlester News-Capital]

Quote of the Day

“I’m quite concerned that as we ramp up testing and ask people to be tested, there might be a lot of people that don’t have symptoms and frankly they don’t want to know if they’re positive because they don’t want to be isolated or quarantined and they don’t want to be put out of work.” 

-Aaron Wendelboe, Oklahoma’s interim state epidemiologist [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of voter fraud prosecutions in the U.S. during a 12-year period from 2000 to 2012 during which billions of votes were cast. Voting fraud rates in the U.S. are “infinitesimal,” according to a national investigative reporting project on the subject.

[Source: News21]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Debunking the voter fraud myth: Because electoral integrity is one of the elements necessary to making America the greatest democracy in the world, voter fraud claims garner media attention, and frighten and concern voters. But putting rhetoric aside to look at the facts makes clear that fraud by voters at the polls is vanishingly rare, and does not happen on a scale even close to that necessary to “rig” an election. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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