In The Know: Oklahomans voting in record numbers | Analysis shows mask ordinances work | October was deadliest month

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

Oklahomans vote early in record numbers: The state Election Board said 164,461 Oklahomans cast ballots in person during early voting over the past three days, topping the record 153,000 who cast in-person, early ballots in the 2016 general election. Nearly 16,000 people in Oklahoma County were among those early voters. [The Oklahoman]

  • Early vote numbers at ONEOK Field eclipsed by 2016 count for Tulsa County [Tulsa World]
  • Yes on 805, sense in sentencing [Editorial / The Oklahoma Eagle]
  • State medical association and health groups come out against funding change in SQ814 [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Out-of-state money supports State Question 805, little spent on State Question 814 [The Oklahoman]
  • A guide to the eight Oklahoma judges up for retention [NonDoc]
  • Horn, Bice work on ground games, closing arguments [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma legislative races to watch on Election Day [The Oklahoman]
  • Close CD 5 race feeds off negative energy [NonDoc]
  • Close congressional race feeds off negative energy [Gaylord News via Norman Transcript]
  • SD 7 candidates have differing views of the State Senate’s role [NonDoc]
  • SD 37: Cody Rogers faces lawsuit, Allison Ikely-Freeman recovers from car accident [NonDoc]
  • HD 4: ‘Number one target’ Matt Meredith in Bob Ed Culver’s sights [NonDoc]
  • How will recent turmoil in Oklahoma County government affect the Nov. 3 election? [The Oklahoman]
  • County clerk races pit GOP incumbents with pair of challengers [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma power outages won’t stop Tuesday’s election [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘No matter what’: Oklahoma election workers determined as power restoration continues [KOSU]

State epidemiologist’s analysis demonstrates success of local mask ordinances: COVID-19 has unmasked a political division in Oklahoma where many would argue it shouldn’t exist. COVID-19 cases in the parts of the state without mask mandates grew by 88%, while the population covered by mask ordinances rose by only 21% in the same nearly three-month period, according to the Oct. 30 version of the state’s weekly epidemiology report. [Tulsa World]

  • Billboards support statewide school mask mandate in Oklahoma [AP News]

Oklahoma closes deadliest COVID-19 month with hotspots in Shawnee, Edmond and OKC: New outbreaks of coronavirus popped up in the past week in Shawnee, Edmond and Oklahoma City as Oklahoma ends October with the highest number of reported deaths so far in the pandemic. To date, 1,326 Oklahomans have died from COVID-19, according to the latest tally from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. With one day left in October, the month has already recorded 295 deaths, surpassing the 259 deaths reported in September. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma reports 1,349 new COVID-19 cases, 8 more deaths [AP News]
  • Norman Veterans Center outbreak not fully shown in state data [Norman Transcript
  • Tulsa metro in national top ten for highest ICU bed, ventilator utilization [Public Radio Tulsa]

Election News

Capitol Insider: Previewing general election day in Oklahoma (audio): Dr. Keith Gaddie of the University of Oklahoma talks about the political landscape in Oklahoma with KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley on Capitol Insider. [KGOU

Oklahoma restores voting rights for felons, but not so fast: Oklahoma requires those with a felony conviction to complete their full, court-mandated sentence before restoring their voting rights. Supporters of the statute argue that a person who breaks the law shouldn’t be trusted with a voice in the political process. [Oklahoma Watch]

Can Democrat Joe Biden win a county in Oklahoma? Eyes are on the most populous one: In a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, the biggest question in Oklahoma on Tuesday will be whether former Vice President Joe Biden can win one of the 77 counties. Recent polls show Biden within striking distance in Oklahoma County, the state’s most populous county and the one in which Democrats likely have their best shot at preventing a sweep. [The Oklahoman] Trump, a Republican, overwhelmingly won Oklahoma in 2016, and is likely to easily win the Sooner State again this year. But there are Oklahomans who desperately want to see a change in leadership. [The Oklahoman]

Fight back against misinformation using these tips: With misinformation expected to heat up as Election Day approaches — and potentially even after results come in — a specialist in addressing misinformation offered three tips to avoid falling victim yourself. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

State’s latest surge plan requires hospitals to share COVID-19 patient data, but Hospital Association still ‘working on getting it done’: The state’s third iteration of a surge plan requires hospitals to share bed data so COVID-19 patients can be evenly distributed in regions and nearby open beds can be more swiftly located. However, the Oklahoma Hospital Association says not quite half of hospitals are enrolled for the data sharing aspect because of the brief time in which OHA had to develop a strategy before the state’s announcement. [Tulsa World]

Stanford study seeks to quantify infections stemming from Trump rallies: A group of Stanford University economists who created a statistical model estimate that there have been at least 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths as a result of 18 campaign rallies President Trump held from June to September. Public health officials in Tulsa, the site of the first rally, have said a subsequent surge in coronavirus cases was most likely tied to it. A little more than two weeks after the event, Tulsa recorded 206 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day, a record high at the time. [New York Times]

Ambulance contractor says EMSA orchestrated service takeover in Tulsa, Oklahoma City: The Emergency Medical Services Authority will take over ambulance operations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa from its contractor, American Medical Response, amid a legal battle over $16 million in disputed payments. [Tulsa World]

QuikTrip expanding into health care sector with urgent care clinics: Beloved Tulsa-based gas station and convenience store chain QuikTrip is expanding into the health care market. The QuikTrip Corporation is the sole investor in a new entity known as MedWise Urgent Care. The company’s first clinic opened last month in Coweta and plans to open a total of 15 locations in the Tulsa area within two years. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

From cadaver dogs to porch pirates: New Oklahoma laws took effect Sunday: More than 60 new Oklahoma laws take effect Sunday. They deal with everything from cracking down on porch piracy to helping breastfeeding mothers find a private place to pump while at work. Typically, hundreds of new laws take effect on Nov. 1 each year, but the number is smaller this year because the COVID-19 pandemic truncated this year’s legislative session. [The Oklahoman]

Fee paid by unemployed Oklahomans getting dropped following political pressure: Using Conduent’s debit card to receive unemployment benefits is about to get cheaper. After facing questions from lawmakers about the fees the company charges out-of-work Oklahomans, Conduent agreed to eliminate a 25-cent charge for checking someone’s balance. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt names counsel to address high-court reservation ruling: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday the hiring of an attorney to help his administration address a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation. [AP News]

Federal Government News

D.C. digest: HHS backs off decision that would have cost Oklahoma hospitals: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services back off a ruling that would have required Oklahoma hospitals to return some of the $1.15 billion in COVID-related aid they have received this year. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

‘I’m a Terrorist?’ Prosecutors, lawmakers seek harsh penalties for those who destroy property in protests: Three people have been charged under the Oklahoma Anti-Terrorism Act for their alleged roles in destruction that took place during a May 30 protest. Others were charged with lesser crimes like rioting for throwing rocks that caused damage to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. One person was charged with assault and battery upon a police officer. Rev. Sheri Dickerson, director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, said the charges under the anti-terrorism act are an intimidation tactic and state-sanctioned violence against those practicing their inalienable rights of free speech, protest and assembly. [Oklahoma Watch]

Man whose Supreme Court case turned much of Oklahoma criminal jurisdiction on its head heads to trial this week: Jimcy McGirt, whose name rose to prominence this summer when he won a landmark Supreme Court decision that acknowledged that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s historical reservation boundaries were never dissolved, will be retried this week in Muskogee federal court. [Tulsa World]

Ex-jailer unlawfully punched naked female inmate, DA says: Another Oklahoma County jailer has been charged with assault and battery for unlawfully punching a naked female inmate in the shower on Aug. 6. He resigned Oct. 5 after being confronted with the results of an investigation. The charge is the latest example of the difficulties facing the jail trust, which took over operations of the 13-story facility on July 1. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma jails suffer power outages during ice storm: Thousands of Oklahomans lost electricity last week after a harsh ice storm cut through the state. The outages also left prisoners and staff in some local jails without power. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

Finding hope: Resources for Oklahoma City’s homeless youth increased despite the pandemic: According to this year’s point-in-time Count, an annual census of Oklahoma City’s homeless population, 90 of those surveyed were unaccompanied youth, five more than last year. However, homeless youth are notoriously undercounted. Although shelters can serve those 18 and up, most young adults prefer to receive services from organizations that focus on their age group. [Big If True]

Education News

The week in coveducation: Cancellations, unclaimed funds, public school oversight: Oklahoma faced intense winter weather this week that took down tree limbs, left more than 250,000 people without power and caused school cancellations. Despite this freeze in the weather, the Oklahoma education news gears kept spinning to include a reported decline in enrollment at Tulsa Public Schools, 70 Oklahoma schools failing to submit vaccination data and an Oklahoma lawmaker who intends to seek the reorganization of public school oversight. [NonDoc]

Foundation program aims to boost bilingual teachers in OKC public schools: The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools sponsors the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program, a “Grow Your Own” initiative that funds college tuition, fees and books for paraprofessionals working in the district. There are currently 44 participants, with three (soon to be five) graduates. The Diversity Teacher Pipeline Program is the other arm of the Teacher Pipeline Program and focuses on paraprofessionals of color. There are currently 15 Black participants on their way to becoming certified teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Why Native Americans don’t share the government’s optimism about the census: The hundreds of thousands of Census Bureau employees who participated in field operations to count the American public seemed to have accomplished a mammoth task, resolving 99.9% of census cases across the United States for which an initial response hadn’t been received, according to the bureau. But not everyone is celebrating just yet. “We needed that [extra] time, and it was taken from us,” says Natalie Landreth, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit legal organization that works to defend the rights of Native American tribes, and an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. [U.S. News & World Reports]

Oklahoma immigration reform activist tells her story in LGBTQ-themed docuseries: Cynthia Garcia, who now works in deportation defense, recently shared part of her story for the new docuseries “Out In Front: Queer Youth Changing The World.” The series, created by the It Gets Better Project, offers a glimpse into the lives of five young LGBTQ+ activists and the range of causes they are championing. Garcia, who works with the nonprofit United We Dream and its affiliate Dream Action Oklahoma, is part of a deportation defense team that provides support to immigrant families going through deportation proceedings. [Tulsa World]

Production of ‘DREAMLAND: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street’ announced: The SpringHill Company and CNN Films have partnered to produce a new documentary that explores the history of ‘Black Wall Street’ and the violent events of late May and June 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of the city’s African American residents. [Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC voters to weigh charter update on Election Day [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman Council approves CARES Act funds for senior center [Norman Transcript]
  • Ahead of Enid recall ruling, those involved reflect on events preceding legal drama [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“It didn’t matter how long it took. My ancestors stood out there for me, so I have to stand out there now. And the rising leaders of tomorrow, they’ll be standing out there later.”

-Shay Brown, a first-time voter who danced out of ONEOK stadium in Tulsa after spending more than two hours waiting in line to cast her vote [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


A record number of Oklahomans voted early in person during the 2.5-day window for in-person absentee voting that ended Saturday. This surpassed the previous statewide record of 153,000 who cast in-person, early ballots in the 2016 general election. 

[Source: Oklahoma State Election Board]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Voting Outside the Polling Place: Absentee, All-Mail and other Voting at Home Options: When, where and how Americans vote has evolved over the course of the last 250 years. When the United States first came into being, voters would voice their choices on courthouse steps, out loud and very much not in secret. Toward the end of the 19th century, a paper ballot became common and was increasingly cast in private at a neighborhood polling place. Times are changing again. The majority of states now permit voters to cast ballots before Election Day, either in person at designated early voting sites, or via a ballot that has been mailed to the voter’s home. In all states, to varying degrees, voting now takes place not just on one day during a certain time period, but over a series of days and weeks before the election, as well. [National Conference of State Legislatures]

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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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