In The Know: Primary runoff elections in Oklahoma

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Oklahomans go to the polls today to choose their candidates in primary runoff elections. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm. KGOU selected three races to watch today. Despite a surge of voters registered this summer by a medical marijuana petition drive, the number of registered voters in Tulsa, particularly registered Democrats, has declined.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit arguing that reporters have the right to witness executions from beginning to completion. During the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April, officials blocked the view of witnesses and reporters when it became clear that the execution was not proceeding as planned. You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Speaking to a national discussion of police accountability, the Choctaw Police Department spoke favorably of body cameras, which its on-duty officers began wearing five months ago. 

Researchers at the University of Tulsa have received a grant to provide free PTSD treatment, trying a new approach to treating the disorder. A post on the OK Policy Blog called for long-term solutions to address homelessness in Oklahoma. Following up a previous article on computer glitches delaying Medicaid enrollment for former foster youth in Oklahoma, NewsOK discussed how other states are dealing with the issue. Oklahoma health officials are concerned about the impact of e-cigarettes on youth smoking. We’ve written about the debate over e-cigarettes before.

A Supreme Court expert from Stanford University has joined the Oklahoma legal team fighting to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban. KJRH reports that the Tulsa County jail is $650,00 over-budget for overtime this year. County officials blame low staffing levels caused by the job’s high stress and low pay. In efforts to make college more affordable, four state universities have moved to a flat-rate tuition system, where students pay one rate regardless of hours taken, and OU has launched a debt-free teacher initiative that forgives up to $20,000 worth of student loan debt if a student agrees to teach in Oklahoma for four years.

Residents concerned that a potential retail development could impact Turkey Mountain sought answers at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Ginnie Graham discussed news that a personal finance website ranked Oklahoma the 6th-worst state for women’s equality. We’ve written about the state of women in Oklahoma before (here and here). Tulsa recycling officials say that Tulsans are still disposing of trash in blue recycling bins, and are planning more public education to teach people how to use the recycling bins. KGOU reports that more Oklahoma water systems are implementing mandatory rationing – 27, up from 26 last year.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of people with diabetes in Oklahoma. The national average is 9.7 percent. In today’s Policy Note, The Atlantic discusses the ACLU’s lawsuit over witnessing executions in Oklahoma and the broader reasoning behind keeping executions open to the public.

In The News

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to pick winners in primary runoff elections

Republican voters will pick the next Tulsa County district attorney on Tuesday. Democrats statewide will pick candidates to move on to the Nov. 4 general election in the U.S. Senate and state superintendent’s races. Voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary runoff elections is expected to be lighter than in the June 24 primary. “This has been a real hard election to gauge turnout for,” said Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant. “We have based it on previous elections. We haven’t had one like this in a while.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Three Races To Watch In Tuesday’s Primary Runoff Elections from KGOU.

Data Shows Overall Decline Of Tulsans Registered To Vote

A surge of voter registration applications this summer didn’t reverse the decline in numbers of potential voters in Tulsa County, and there was a sharp drop in the number of registered Democrats. Many of the recent applications likely came through the efforts for a ballot initiative on medical marijuana, according to Patty Bryant, Tulsa County Election Board Secretary. The election board believes 2,845 new voter applications came from the initiative process. The election board reports that 580 of those applications were rejected as incomplete or illegible. 1,160 were improperly sent to Tulsa County, and were forwarded to other counties corresponding to the address on the form. Tulsa County now has 329,453 registered voters, compared to 337,222 in August of 2010.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma: Suit Seeks Reporting Access at Executions

Reporters should have the right to witness executions in Oklahoma from start to end, a federal suit filed in Oklahoma City on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union contends. The suit was prompted by the bungled execution of Clayton D. Lockett on April 29, where witnesses were not allowed to watch as officials spent 51 minutes struggling to insert catheters into Mr. Lockett’s veins and where witnesses had their view blocked again after Mr. Lockett began to writhe and moan. “At the moment when public oversight was most important,” the suit states, citing the First Amendment and Oklahoma law, “the state unlawfully shrouded its execution proceedings in secrecy.”

Read more from The New York Times.

Read the ACLU’s statement here.

Choctaw Police Chief Says Officer Body Cams Pays Off

As Brown was laid to rest today in Ferguson, discussions continue across the nation regarding police accountability. It’s something the Choctaw Police Department found a solution to nearly a year ago. As News 9’s Justin Dougherty shows, the department and the city are pleased with the investment of body cameras. Nearly the same size as a stick of lip balm, Choctaw Police have worn the body cameras for nearly five months, and to them that’s almost a year of extra insurance. “If something does happen then I’ll have video proof of it or documentation,” said Choctaw Police Chief Conny Clay.

Read more from News9.

Local Researchers Take New Approach to Treating PTSD

Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychologists at a local institute believe they’ve found a better way to treat it, and they have backing from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology in the form of a six-figure grant. The typical course of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder involves nine to 12 sessions with a therapist. “And there’s no medications involved. It is an approach that focuses on the way that trauma impacts the way that you think, the way that you behave and the way that you feel,” said Joanne Davis, codirector of the Tulsa Institute for Trauma, Abuse and Injustice, and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Homelessness in the Long Run: Why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions

“Did that man bother you?” asked the woman as I was standing in line to get my morning coffee. “What do you mean?” I replied. “That man has been sitting outside asking people for money. Did he try to assault you?” This question caught me off guard. It’s not every day that I am asked if I have been assaulted. “No, he told me he was a veteran and I asked what branch he served in. He said Navy, so I asked what ship he served on and then he quit talking with me.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

How other states are implementing Medicaid changes for former foster youth

In the midst of writing a story about former foster youth eligible for Medicaid, I called around to find out what other states were doing. In Oklahoma, an estimated 2,300 former foster youth are now eligible to remain on the state’s Medicaid program until age 26. However, only a fraction has signed up since Jan. 1, in part, because of technology glitches. Tricia Brooks, senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said in our interview that although a lot of states are having difficulties implementing these Medicaid changes, California has made a lot of progress.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Glitches delay Medicaid enrollment for former foster kids in Oklahoma from NewsOK.

Oklahoma health officials worry e-cigarettes may lead youth to cigarette smoking

Data from the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey showed that almost 8 percent of Oklahoma high school students and about 3 percent of Oklahoma middle school students who responded to the survey had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, according to the Oklahoma Health Department. The recent CDC data show that middle and high school students nationwide who had never smoked conventional cigarettes but who used e-cigarettes were almost twice as likely to intend to smoke conventional cigarettes as those who had never used e-cigarettes.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The debate on e-cigarettes lights up from the OK Policy Blog.

U.S. Supreme Court expert joins legal team fighting Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban

The Oklahoma legal team that scored two federal court victories against the state’s same-sex marriage ban has added a lawyer with extensive U.S. Supreme Court experience to persuade high court justices to review the case and affirm the ban is unconstitutional. Jeffrey L. Fisher, law professor and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford University, is now the lead counsel for Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the Tulsa County couple at the center of the Oklahoma case.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa Co. Jail goes $650,000 over budget in OT

Getting locked up costs a lot of money and takes a lot of work. Just ask Sabastian Duque, he’s a detention officer. He works with inmates all day long, patrolling the halls and monitoring the areas inmates stay in. “It is very stressful. I think the hardest part is the time. You’re going to be taken away from your family if you have families, or if you go to school, it’s going to take away time from your school,” said Duque. For months it’s been even more demanding. He’s been putting in an extra 20 hours a week, that’s because the jail is short staffed.

Read more from KJRH.

Flat Fee At Four State Universities And Debt Forgiveness For Teachers At OU

Four state universities offer new programs to make college education more affordable. OU, OSU, Langston University, and USAO have moved to a flat-rate tuition, where students pay one rate regardless of hours taken. OU has also launched a debt-free teacher initiative, in which the school will forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt if a student agrees to teach in Oklahoma for at least 4 years.

See more from OETA.

Trail Supporters Seek Answers At Tulsa Town Hall Meeting

It’s a tug-of-war over the price of progress, as many are wondering if an outlet mall will cost Tulsa a one-of-a-kind wilderness area. Tulsans with questions took over a meeting Monday night that didn’t originally even have the issue on the agenda. It was a packed house with two adjoining rooms at Zarrow Library in west Tulsa. The meeting was originally meant to be a discussion about code enforcement, but the crowd began asking about Turkey Mountain and dozens had to be ushered to a different section of the library as the city tried to answer questions.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma named 6th worst place for equality for women

Women in Oklahoma aren’t being represented in board rooms or in political arenas, placing the state as the sixth worst in the U.S. in female equality, according to The personal finance social network comes out with analytical surveys quite often. Some are fun, others take on more meaty issues. The ranking for Oklahoma isn’t coming out of nowhere.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: The State of Oklahoma Women (Part One): Economic security and leadership and The State of Oklahoma Women (Part Two): Healthy women, healthy families from the OK Policy Blog.

Council to vote on Tinker economic development project

The Oklahoma City Council will be asked Tuesday to commit $23.5 million toward acquisition of a former Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway yard that is part of the development of an aerospace complex to support maintenance and repair of KC-46A air tankers at Tinker Air Force Base. The complex eventually is expected to support about 1,300 jobs with an average salary of $62,000.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa’s recycling contamination not falling, public education continues

Tulsans are continuing to do a poor job of throwing the right refuse in the blue bins. Six months after the city’s recycling vendor, Tulsa Recycle and Transfer, brought the problem to the city’s trash board, Tulsa residents continue to contaminate the recycling stream with trash that should go in the gray bins. Robert Pickens, TRT general manager, said contamination rates continue to hover around 30 percent, with July numbers reaching a near high of 33 percent.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

More Oklahoma Water Systems Implement Mandatory Rationing

The State Department of Environmental Quality has recently released its Water Rationing Report. The 2014 report is not a new report but rather one that is continuously updated with the name and number of water systems who are reported to be rationing water. There are 30 total systems listed within the report. Of those systems, 27 are currently participating in mandatory rationing and the remaining three in voluntary rationing.

Read more from KGOU.

Read the State Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Rationing Report here.

Quote of the Day

“If something does happen then I’ll have video proof of it or documentation.”

– Police Chief Conny Clay, speaking in favor of body cams worn by worn Choctaw police officers while on duty. Advocates say the cameras increase accountability and security for both officers and the public (Source:

Number of the Day


Percentage of people with diabetes in Oklahoma. The national average is 9.7%

Source: 2014 State of the State’s Health.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Who Watches America’s Executions?

After Joseph Wood’s botched execution in July, journalists and other observers gave us grisly details about the convicted murderer’s final moments. One of the reporters even counted the number of Wood’s gasps—around 660 in total—as he lay on the gurney before finally dying after nearly two hours. The New York Times printed the number on its front page the next morning. During its next opportunity to rule on a lethal-injection-drug case earlier this month, all four of the Supreme Court’s liberal justices voted to hear it—just one vote short of success. Now only the whims of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has written both to save and to constrain the death penalty during his tenure, stand between the states and a review of the country’s universally preferred, and increasingly troubled, execution method. But in the botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma earlier in April, valuable observations like those in Arizona weren’t independently available because of state interference.

Read more from The Atlantic.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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