In The Know: Oklahoma early voting numbers break 2008 record

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Election day is tomorrow! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

Oklahoma early voting numbers break 2008 record: According to the Oklahoma state election board, early voting this year was record-smashing. It broke the 2008 record of 114.3K with 146.2K early voters as of 2pm Saturday. There were 234.5K combined mail/early voting. “It as crazy. We went on Friday morning and, up there at the Baptist church, it was like wrapped around the building,” said one man. While some chose to wait until Tuesday instead of battling the crowds, Oklahomans agree it’s their duty to get out and vote [KFOR].

Oklahoma earthquake forces evacuations, school closures: A strong earthquake that rumbled through central Oklahoma Sunday night has caused damage to buildings and resulted in the evacuation of nearby residents. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Division and the Oklahoma Geological Survey recorded a 5.0 magnitude earthquake near Cushing, about 50 miles southwest of Tulsa. So far, no injured have been reported. But first responders had evacuated at least one senior living complex, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain. Those residents were provided shelter at a youth center gymnasium in Cushing [CNN].

State questions drive election drama in Oklahoma: Seven state questions before voters on Tuesday offer an exercise in direct democracy to address some of Oklahoma’s most complicated problems, including underfunded schools, overcrowded prisons and a host of other issues. With a slate of state and federal legislative races expected to provide few upsets, the state questions could hold the most drama on election night. And because state House and Senate races likely will offer little change in the way of balance of power or political ideology, supporters of some state questions believe a vote of the people may be the only way to bring reform [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s 2016 Oklahoma State Questions Guide here.

Mandated spending signals lack of trust in lawmakers: Much like parents who dictate how children spend their savings, Oklahomans are increasingly controlling were lawmakers put their tax dollars. Even before state officials outline how much they’ll have to spend in the next budget, more than 50 cents of every dollar are already spoken for, due to laws that require certain funding for specific programs. On Tuesday, voters are asked to order more set-asides, this time for education and criminal justice [Claremore Daily Progress].

State Questions give Oklahomans a chance to govern ourselves: For a state with a well-deserved reputation for loathing government, we Oklahomans sure spend a lot of time, energy and money governing ourselves. In addition to the candidates we have on the ballot next month, we’ll have seven state questions to discuss, debate and decide. Four of the questions were referred to the people by the state Legislature while three were started by citizens through circulating an initiative petition. Plus, there were ten more state questions that, for one reason or another, failed to even reach the ballot [OK Policy].

Voter Registration Numbers Show Most Vulnerable Incumbents: Voters will decide on Tuesday whether to re-elect 53 incumbent legislators or choose many new faces to be part of the 56th Legislature. With the benefits of name recognition and typically a fundraising edge, the majority of these incumbents are expected to win. But a SoonerPoll survey taken this summer found only 34 percent of likely voters held a favorable view of the Legislature. That is two percentage points lower than President Barack Obama’s favorable rating in Oklahoma. The unpopularity of the Legislature was also reflected by the record number of candidates who filed for office in April [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma’s 28th presidential election will be first with GOP voters in majority: Oklahomans began early voting late last week, and Tuesday’s results are expected to bring another state victory for the Republican presidential candidate, this time Donald Trump, who is facing Democrat Hillary Clinton and Libertarian Gary Johnson. The state has voted the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1968. There might be a little suspense about whether Clinton can win a county, something a Democratic nominee hasn’t done since 2000 [NewsOK].

Keith Gaddie on Okie politics: ‘A loss of competition’: To hear OU political science professor Keith Gaddie tell it, his boss likes him because he can field questions from the press without making himself or the university look like liberal elitists or conservative bumpkins. Gaddie’s boss, ultimately, is OU president David L. Boren, a former legislator, governor, U.S. senator and now-State Question proponent who, at 75, is still Oklahoma’s most powerful living political figure, as evidenced by his ability to whip out an education funding proposal, lay it on the table and watch Republican state leadership timidly offer nothing bigger, nothing better and, in the end, no alternative at all. “Oklahoma politics has not been covering itself in glory the last few years,” Gaddie says [NonDoc].

Smarter approach: Yes on 780, 781: We have a broken criminal justice system. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the country for women and the second-highest overall rate. Oklahomans spend $515 million a year to pay for corrections – a cost that has grown by 172 percent over the past two decades. Our prisons are overcrowded, and the continued rate of growth of our prison population and the associated costs are unsustainable. According to our Department of Corrections, for the past decade, more than 70 percent of annual prison admissions have been people whose only or most serious crime of conviction was a nonviolent offense [Kris Steele / Stillwater News-Press]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 780 and 781 here.

A Field Guide to State Question 777: StateImpact’s Documentary on OK’s Agricultural Ballot Measure: When Oklahoma voters go to the polls next week, they’ll decide on State Question 777, known by supporters as the right-to-farm amendment. The measure would make farming and ranching a constitutional right and make it harder for the Legislature to enact laws that further regulate the agriculture industry. The ballot question seems simple on the surface: Do you support the right to farm? The answer for many Oklahomans, however, is more complex [StateImpact Oklahoma]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 here.

Total Sales Tax, by City: Oklahomans are paying anywhere from 5 cents to 11 cents on the dollar in sales or use taxes, depending on the city and county they live in. The state sales tax is 4.5 cents per dollar; cities and counties tack on as much as six and a half cents more. A penny increase in Oklahoma’s sales tax, as proposed to help fund education, would mean the total tax on a dollar is 10 cents or more in over 300 cities or towns, most of them in rural areas. Five communities would see 12 cents. Opponents say the tax would burden the poor. Supporters say strengthening education would help the poor and others in the long run [Oklahoma Watch]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

Teachers look to election for clout in Legislature, pay hike: Superintendents who have seen teachers leave for greener pastures, teachers laid off from their jobs and parents worried about the quality of an Oklahoma public school education see Tuesday’s vote on a penny sales tax increase as a means to address years of chronic underfunding. Backers of Question 779 say the proposal would generate $550 million annually for schools, enough to fund at least a $5,000 across-the-board pay increase for teachers who are among the lowest-paid in the nation. Some are backing both the ballot issue and nearly three dozen members of a “teachers’ caucus” running for legislative seats [Muskogee Phoenix].

Q&A on the Stunning Criminal Case Against Hofmeister: The felony charges filed Thursday against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister stunned many Oklahomans. Allegations that she and four others conspired to get around campaign finance laws belied Hofmeister’s image as an earnest, hard-working, politically careful champion of public education and educators. Hofmeister denied any wrongdoing and said she will fight the charges. To comprehend the news, many people also had to grasp the complex regulations related to campaign finance – a world of increasing, big-money machinations that accelerated after the U.S. Supreme Court toppled some restrictions in 2010 [Oklahoma Watch].

Joy Hofmeister case has far-reaching implications for political campaigns: A chill must have gone through Oklahoma political insiders on Thursday as news circulated about the charges filed against State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, well-known political strategist Fount Holland and three others. This is true not just because Hofmeister is a popular public official with powerful enemies and Holland is an influential strategist who helped build Oklahoma’s Republican juggernaut. For some, Thursday’s events must have struck even closer to home, for the practices described in court documents might not be all that rare, even if the specific charges are [Tulsa World].

Nonprofit to launch hands-on civics classes: A nonprofit is starting a pilot program in the metro to get more students involved in civics. Generation Citizen will be in eight or 10 public school classrooms this spring. The curriculum provided by the national organization will, in Oklahoma site director Amy Curran’s words, teach civics by doing. The students will identify in which community they want to be active and then look at what issues affect those communities. The coursework then leads them to pick an issue and start engaging with decision-makers [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“This is a debate that’s been long running throughout the country. It’s the value of using rules to make decisions versus discretion. I think what you’re seeing is a response saying the people supporting these are not appreciative of the discretionary decisions that Legislature has made in the past.”

-Mickey Hepner, dean of the business college at the University of Central Oklahoma, speaking about Oklahoma ballot initiatives that require certain funding for specific programs in education and criminal justice (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children with at least one Adverse Childhood Experience, 2011-2012.

Source: Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Voters With Disabilities Fight For More Accessible Polling Places: More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. — about one in six — have a disability. And in the last presidential election, almost a third of voters with disabilities reported having trouble casting their ballots — whether it was getting into the polling place, reading the ballot, or struggling with a machine. Despite some improvements, many of these voters are expected to face similar problems again this year [NPR].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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