The Weekly Wonk: Closer look at SQ 802 results | Parole reform successes | Census matters for rural Oklahoma

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

A closer look at SQ 802 results dispels myth that Oklahomans voted against their self-interest: When Oklahomans voted to expand Medicaid on June 30, they showed that our state values increased access to health care, less reliance on emergency rooms, and higher quality of care. The election was close with just 6,000 votes out of 674,951 cast determining the outcome. Commentators were quick to assign a narrative of a rural-urban divide to the outcome. Indeed, only seven counties had more yes votes than no. However, a look at the results with attention to more than surface-level detail reveals a more accurate picture of the election: close vote counts in most precincts, a correlation between votes and income, and a strong impact from American Indian communities. The data show that quite literally every type of Oklahoma voter made a difference in passing State Question 802. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Parole reform was crucial in ending Oklahoma’s status as the world’s prison capital: In 2016, Oklahoma incarcerated a higher percentage of its population than any other place on Earth. Much attention has been focused on the success of criminal justice reforms like State Question 780, but reforms to the state’s parole system — which grants early prison release for eligible inmates — had a tremendous impact on lessening Oklahoma’s prison crisis. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

Varied backgrounds of elected officials can bring innovative solutions (Capitol Update): The Oklahoma House and Senate are made up of “we the people” who are elected and come from various backgrounds and areas of expertise. Each member adds to the mix, making the whole literally greater than the sum of its parts. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update

Policy Matters: Accurate census count invaluable for rural Oklahomans: During the next five weeks, the U.S. Census Bureau has a remarkable feat to attempt – getting an accurate count of every person living in our nation. The census is never easy, but it has been exponentially harder this go-round due to the global pandemic alongside political maneuvering from Washington, D.C., intended to undermine its important work. (It’s also worth noting its arbitrary Sept. 30 deadline could be extended if Congress shifted the statutory deadline for reporting apportionment and redistricting data from the 2020 census.) [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]

Weekly What’s That

Education Scholarship Tax Credits

In 2011, the Legislature passed The Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act, which authorized the creation of scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) and educational improvement grant organizations (EIGOs). SGOs issue scholarships for students who meet certain requirements to attend private schools, and EIGOs issue grants to public schools.

Under the Act, individuals and businesses can make a donation to either an SGO or EIGO and receive a tax credit of 50 percent for a one-time donation or 75 percent for a two-year donation, along with the standard charitable deduction. The maximum tax credit is $1,000 for an individual, $2,000 for a married couple, and $100,000 for a business.  The total amount of tax credits that can be issued each year is $5 million. Of that total, credits for private school SGOs are capped at $3.5 million and credits for public school EIGOs are capped at $1.5 million.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“(O)ut of 30 teachers, I’m going to be starting the school year with six employees basically gone because of COVID-related reasons. I thought, ‘That’s a fifth of my staff. How are we going to have school with a fifth of my staff gone?’”

-Dewar School Superintendent Todd Been [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Editorial of the Week

Attorney General Mike Hunter goes to court to defend Oklahoma’s undefendable absentee voting law

Voting is a fundamental constitutional right of American citizens. It is underlined by the plain language of the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th Amendments and also made explicit in the Oklahoma Constitution, which declares: “All political power is inherent in the people.”

Yet, Hunter’s team wants to make voting inaccessible to those unwilling to expose themselves to strangers during an uncontrolled pandemic.

The notary requirement adds no protection against voter fraud. Anyone determined to vote illegally via absentee ballot would have no compunction about getting the aid of a notary…

[Read full editorial at Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 58.7% – Oklahoma’s Census self-response rate as of Aug. 20. The national average is 64.2 percent.
  • $9,364,879,721 – Amount of federal dollars received by Oklahoma in FY 2016 through 55 programs that rely on Census data for distribution models.
  • $2,496.40 – Amount of federal funds per Oklahoma resident received annually. 
  • 62% – Women represent about 62% of the adult Medicaid population nationwide. A state undercount could lead to a reduction in Medicaid funding for that state, which might restrict access and benefits—disproportionately affecting women and girls with low incomes.
  • 24.5% – Percentage of Oklahomans considered part of the “hard to count” Census population.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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