In The Know: State Superintendent Charged With Campaign Violations

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 Tuesday, November 8th! 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

State Superintendent Charged With Campaign Violations: Oklahoma Count District Attorney David Prater filed charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and four others Thursday for campaign violations. The charges stem from a 2014 investigation examining whether Hofmeister used a “super PAC” or dark money group to attack her campaign opponent, Janet Barresi. According to court documents obtained by News 9, the investigation reveals a conspiracy to commit campaign contribution violations and illegal coordination by members of a registered 501c4 called Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and Joy Hofmeister [News9]. Hofmeister said she won’t resign and will fight the charges [NewsOn6].

Targeted strategist worked with local House candidate, others: An Oklahoma City-based campaign strategist facing criminal charges along with State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and three others has consulted for House District 4 Republican candidate Bob Ed Culver Jr., according to financial disclosures filed this year. Culver declined to comment on the criminal charges unveiled Thursday against Robert Fount Holland, a political adviser and founder of A.H. Strategies. Holland is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and one count of being in violation of the computer crime act [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Early in-person voting begins across Oklahoma: People endured long waits to vote at some locations in Oklahoma on Thursday, which was the first of three days of early in-person voting at county election board offices in the state. More than 200 people formed a line outside the board office in Oklahoma City that snaked across the front of the building and extended into a parking lot. Some said they waited up to two hours to cast a ballot. Early in-person voting is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday in all 77 counties [Associated Press].

Groups rally for and against education sales-tax state question on first day of early voting: Dueling news conferences on the first day of early voting in Tulsa advocated for and against State Question 779, which proposes raising Oklahoma’s sales tax to increase teachers’ salaries and fund education improvements. About 10 people opposing the ballot measure gathered outside Tulsa City Hall at noon on Thursday to contend that increasing the state sales tax is the wrong method to fund education improvements [Tulsa World]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

Okla. schools make tough cuts amid oil slump, budget cuts: Inola High School is like any other in America, bustling with students running from class to class. Except on Mondays. The school district, outside of Tulsa, has lost $400,000 in state funding over the past year. “Not in my worst dream did I ever figure I would be taking my district to a four-day school week,” said Dr. Kent Holbrook, the superintendent. The choice was cut teachers or switch to four days with longer hours [CBS News]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Election Watch: Legislature: The 56th Oklahoma Legislature will convene in February next year, and will face some of the same grave challenges that weighed on the 55th, driven by a severe budget shortfall. On Tuesday, voters will pick the winners in 20 Senate races and 73 House races. Republicans now hold a supermajority in the Legislature: 39 of the 48 Senate seats and 71 out of the 101 House seats. Election Day will decide how much that dynamic changes [Oklahoma Watch].

What cuts to alternative education mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine: We hear a lot about the cuts to public programs that have been made in recent years as a result of the state’s endless budget crisis. Often a lot of numbers get tossed around, but we can lose sight of what the programs that are being cut mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine. I attended Broken Arrow Academy from 2001 until I graduated in 2004. The BA Academy is one of over 250 alternative education programs that operate in the state to serve at-risk students [Teara Firor / OK Policy].

Both side of SQ’s 780 and 781, criminal justice reform: Two state questions you’ll see on your ballot go hand in hand. State questions 780 and 781 need to pass together. SQ 780 would lower punishments for some drug possession crimes and property crimes by making them misdemeanors instead of felonies. SQ 781 suggests if those crimes are downgraded, the state would save money by cutting down on prison sentences. The initiative would have the state take that money to pay for drug and mental health help for those criminals [Fox 25]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781 here.

Corporation Commission orders 22 wells to shut or reduce volume following latest Pawnee quake: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday ordered four disposal wells to cease operations and 18 others to reduce or limit disposal volumes following a 4-plus magnitude earthquake late Tuesday near Pawnee. The latest action brings to 64 the number of disposal wells under restrictions in the Pawnee area. The orders are for an indefinite period and follow earlier enforcement actions taken after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the area on Sept. 3 [Tulsa World].

Cherokee Nation to finalize deal to buy Sequoyah’s cabin: A signing ceremony Nov. 9 will finalize the Cherokee Nation’s purchase of Sequoyah’s cabin from the Oklahoma Historical Society, officials announced Wednesday. Budget cuts left the state unable to afford maintenance and operational costs at the tourist site, which attracts more than 12,000 visitors a year, officials said. One of the most revered figures in the tribe’s history, Sequoyah invented the Cherokee syllabary in the early 1800s to make reading and writing possible in the Cherokee language [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“It’s not fun for people to wait that long, but it’s also a good sign of a healthy democracy. If you’re willing to wait in line for tickets to the next Star Wars movie or the latest iPhone, let’s be willing to wait in line to express our civic duty to vote. In some ways, it’s a good problem to have.” 

-Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Bryan Dean, on lines that had some voters waiting up to two hours on the first day of early voting in Oklahoma City (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of hogs in Oklahoma, Dec. 2015

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Can Ranked Voting Save the Electoral Process? I know something both about publicity, and about getting people to vote. I’m a musician who has also worked for years to improve our elections, serving as chair of FairVote, a nonprofit pushing for election reform to make democracy fairer, more functional, and representative. Fundamentally, people are drawn to vote for many reasons—they want a choice, they want to vote for a party and a person who shares their values, and they like to participate in races that are close and important. But our state laws undermine each of these ways of luring people to the polls [New America].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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