In The Know: Voting by mail increasing in state | Interim study examines racial relations | Ensuring Medicaid expansion delivers full potential

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.

New from OK Policy

Ensuring Medicaid expansion delivers on its full potential: With Oklahoma voters approving Medicaid expansion this summer, residents can expect to see enormous economic returns and improved health outcomes in the coming years. Based on the experiences from other states, Medicaid expansion can lead to significant increases in access to health care, thousands of new jobs, and millions of dollars in additional revenue. While voting to expand Medicaid was a monumental step forward, the subsequent decisions by our elected officials and policymakers are just as important to ensure that Oklahomans get the most impact from their investment. The state’s processes moving forward with expansion will impact hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans and it’s important they get it right. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Blood sport politics has weakened state, country: Governance is not a zero-sum game, and politics has never been an activity for the thin-skinned. But this garbage is getting out of hand. Absolute partisanship has left little room for constructive dialogue. In turn, this has weakened both civility and the legislation coming from our political bodies. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Voting by mail increases exponentially in Oklahoma: As the pandemic rages, Oklahomans voting by mail in the 2020 primary increased exponentially compared with the same election four years prior, according to an analysis of mail-in voting data obtained by CNHI Oklahoma through an open records request. CNHI’s analysis found a gaping divide between rural and urban voters’ use of mailed ballots. [CNHI via Norman Transcript] If you vote by mail [CNHI]

  • Mailing It In: Data shows mailed ballots benefit both parties in battleground states [CNHI]
  • Today (Friday, Oct. 9) is the deadline for registering for Nov. 3 general election [KFOR] [Oklahoma Election Board]

Oklahoma House studies race relations, police and criminal justice reform: Oklahoma lawmakers are interested enough in police and criminal justice reform to have studied the matter at length this fall. Whether that interest can be translated into action in next year’s legislative session is another matter. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers look to Iowa as example for passing police reforms [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa Police Chief tells state lawmakers he’s working on better use-of-force reviews [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Two Oklahoma voters discuss how protests, police budget cuts have impacted them (audio) [KGOU]

COVID hospitalizations hit new record as Oklahoma’s case average continues to rise: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Thursday 1,212 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 95,564. Tulsa County reported 189 of those cases. Its total now stands at 18,494, second to Oklahoma County’s 19,736. The state’s seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, rose from 1,022 to 1,028. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Editorial: Tulsa’s City Council got the mask ordinance pretty much right; when will the suburbs start protecting their citizens? [Tulsa World]

Health News

A syphilis outbreak in south-central Oklahoma creates yet another strain on the state’s public health system: Over the past six months, we’ve gotten pretty familiar with terms we hadn’t heard regularly before, like contact tracers and infectious disease intervention specialists. But they’re not new. Before the coronavirus, many of Oklahoma’s workers in that sector had their eye on another disease: syphilis. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

New state health lab will help during future pandemics: State officials on Wednesday announced the creation of a new and innovative health center that will engage public and private entities in responding to the COVID-19 situation and prepare Oklahoma for future pandemics and public health crises. The Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence will be tied to the state’s public health laboratory, which will be moving to Stillwater as the Oklahoma State Department of Health moves into SandRidge Energy’s former downtown office tower. [The Oklahoman] Stillwater leaders welcome public health lab [Stillwater News Press]

Flu season weekly reporting begins, with 8 hospitalized so far in Oklahoma: Tulsa County accounts for most of the state’s flu-related hospitalizations since September, according to the first weekly report of the 2020-21 season from Oklahoma State Department of Health. Three Tulsa County residents are among the eight hospitalized so far this season, which runs from Sept. 1 to spring 2021. No other county reported more than one resident hospitalized with the flu. [Tulsa World]

Telemedicine visits skyrocket in Oklahoma during pandemic: As the pandemic took hold in Oklahoma and restrictions on everything from restaurant dining rooms and schools were put in place, Oklahomans began seeing their doctors virtually instead of in exam rooms at a rate exponentially greater than last year. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

OK County jail fight, EPIC investigation, State Question 814 opposition and more (audio): This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU’s Michael Cross talks with Republican political consultant Neva Hill and civil rights attorney Ryan Kiesel about a fight between the Oklahoma County Commissioners and the Oklahoma County Jail Trust over immigrations officers in the jail, the State Auditor releases a “deeply concerning” investigation of EPIC Virtual Charter School and the EPA gives Governor Stitt authority over environmental issues on tribal lands. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office to use COVID-19 funds to complete its own 911 call center: The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office plans to spend nearly $3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to complete its own 911 call center. The Sheriff’s Office currently shares the city’s 911 call center. The new facility will be built inside a 911 center building that was begun by former Sheriff Stanley Glanz in 2014 but never completed. [Tulsa World]

These fake oxycodone pills are killing Oklahomans: At least 10 Oklahomans have died in the last five months from fake oxycodone pills, and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is warning that more people could be at risk. Two people in Grady County died this week from overdosing on the pills, which tested positive for fentanyl, ONB officials said. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma saved money by breaking its ACT commitment. Here’s what it’s costing Miami students: This is a tale of two seniors in the northeast corner of Oklahoma. Miami High School classmates Gage Harris and Christian Wellman are among the 37,000 Oklahoma high school students denied a state-sponsored college admissions test. Their contrasting circumstances illustrate the inequity that can occur without that opportunity. [StateImpact Oklahoma via KGOU]

Column: Distance learning not ideal but provides consistency and safety: For months, I’ve been manning the daily routine from my kitchen table, doing my work from a laptop and trying to keep my kids on task. I’ve managed a half-baked job at both with occasionally feeling an overwhelming loss of control and stress. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

General News

Hot or cold? Will your outlook on climate change influence your vote?: Environmentalists hoped to make this year’s presidential election a referendum on climate change and how it should be addressed. But while COVID-19 and the federal government’s response to the pandemic instead forced its way into being one of the top issues on voters’ minds when they cast their ballots in this year’s race, that doesn’t mean climate change is forgotten. [The Oklahoman]

‘A welcoming and resilient community’: Admiral Twin Drive-In hosts naturalization ceremony, helps welcome 55 new U.S. citizens: The City of Tulsa began hosting monthly ceremonies at City Hall last year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was forced to scale them back. At recent ones, only 10 participants were allowed per ceremony to ensure proper distancing among participants. The drive-in ceremony, which the Admiral Twin was happy to accommodate, allowed more people to naturalize at one time safely, officials said. The 55 new citizens naturalized Thursday came from 22 countries. [Tulsa World]

Rabbis, Imam friendship forged on shared goals: For Rabbi Vered Harris, Rabbi Abby Jacobson and Imam Imad Enchassi, their 2017 overseas trip with other Oklahoma Jews, Muslims and Christians was simply one of many positive outcomes of their interfaith collaborations. Many metro interfaith projects and activities have flourished in the state’s mostly conservative Christian landscape partly due to the amiable efforts of these leaders of minority faith groups. [The Oklahoman]

Op-Ed: Feeling fatigued? You are not alone: Right now, many Americans are experiencing something we call “identity fatigue” — exhaustion from everything we’re being asked to do. Wear a mask. Protest for social change. Hire a diverse workforce. Buy sustainable goods. Get out and vote. And don’t forget to do your job — from home. Playing all of these identities — hero, activist, green consumer, possible contagion, mindful citizen, dutiful employee — is exhausting. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Edmond district will need a new superintendent [The Oklahoman]
  • Chelsea gets backup law enforcement after police chief contracts COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Lawton’s Indigenous People’s Day events intend to educate [Lawton Constitution]
  • Delaware County names second interim sheriff in less than a week [Grand Lake News

Quote of the Day

“By putting this issue front and center, my hope is we can have similar discussions about education, about health, and about jobs and the economy.” 

-Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, during Thursday’s interim study on racial relations and policing [Tulsa World

Number of the Day


Percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents in Oklahoma, the state’s largest non-white population, according to Census categorizations

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Living Below the Line: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Economic Security among Older Americans, 2020: New estimates from the 2019 Elder Index highlight the risk of economic insecurity experienced by older adults, a risk that is especially high for persons of color. National averages suggest that among people living alone, 48% of older people who are White, 59% of those who are Asian, 64% of older people who are Black, and 72% of those who are Latino have annual incomes below the Elder Index. These estimates suggest that nationally, at least 11 million adults age 65 or older struggle to make ends meet, facing financial challenges in their efforts to age in place and in community. In comparison to older Whites, disparities in economic security are especially high for Blacks and Latinos. [Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging]

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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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