Weekly Wonk: DOJ investigation in Oklahoma | Together OK meeting in SW Oklahoma | Straight-party voting

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 look at DOJ’s civil rights investigation into State of Oklahoma, OKC, OKCPD (Capitol Update): The DOJ does not start an investigation unless there is some evidence they may find violations. Reports of alleged civil rights violations by law enforcement are reviewed by the local U.S. Attorney then forwarded to the DOJ Civil Rights Division for enforcement. The investigation could be a result of either a single or multiple incidents that indicate the possibility of a pattern or practice of civil rights violations. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

OK Policy in the News

Forced Out: Skyrocketing Rent, Evictions Pushing Thousands Out of Their Homes: In Oklahoma, it’s easy to be evicted. Moderate- and low-income families face skyrocketing rent, utility and food prices and the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting economic storm coupled with a lack of affordable housing and weak protection from Oklahoma’s Landlord Tenant Act has pushed thousands from their homes. [Oklahoma Watch]

Upcoming Opportunities

Together Oklahoma to host meeting for Stephens, Grady, and Jefferson counties, will discuss rural issues: OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy program — has announced it will hold a community meeting for Stephens, Grady, and Jefferson counties (both in-person and online) on Nov. 28, at the Duncan Public Library. The meeting will feature a community discussion on rural issues and advocacy in the tri-county area. [Together OK]

We’re Hiring

OK Policy is now hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Salary Range: $50,000 – $55,000 annually, commensurate with experience. Deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., December 11.

[Job Description, PDF] | [Apply Today]

Weekly What’s That

LEAD (Large-scale Economic Activity and Development) Act

The LEAD (Large-scale Economic Activity and Development ) Act is legislation passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in April 2022 in an effort to incentivize a major manufacturer to build a massive electric vehicle battery factory in the MidAmerica Industrial Park outside of Tulsa in Pryor. The manufacturer was not officially identified at the time due to a non-disclosure agreement signed by the state, but was widely known to be Panasonic.

The LEAD Act, enacted as HB 4455, provided for a 10-year investment rebate program for the cost of qualified capital expenditures based on creation of new direct jobs. A company was required to submit a a capital expenditure plan totaling no less than $3.6 billion to be eligible for the rebates.The Panasonic project was anticipated to lead to 4,000 new jobs within five years.

The Legislature appropriated $698 million to the LEAD Fund in 2022 as part of the FY 2023 budget. In July 2022, Panasonic announced that it had selected Kansas instead of Oklahoma as the location for its battery factory, although Department of Commerce officials claimed that Oklahoma remains under consideration for a possible second factory. The $698 million currently remains in the LEAD Fund. Any monies left in the Fund upon expiration of the LEAD Act on July 1, 2032, will be transferred to the General Revenue Fund.

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

Quote of the Week

“Our landlord tenant act is considered one of the five worst in the country. Tenants don’t have the right to withhold rent if the unit needs repair. And landlords can be bullies. You can get an eviction notice on Monday and be out by Friday.”

– Dan Straughn, the executive director of the Homeless Alliance, speaking on the housing crisis in Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Watch]

Editorial of the Week

Enid News & Eagle Editorial: Straight-party voting helps sustain one party’s political power

The mid-term elections are a few weeks behind us, and it’s finally been sorted out in other states which parties will control certain sectors of Congress.

In Oklahoma, it was another solid win for the Republican Party, which has carried a super majority in the Legislature since 2008. When you look at the electoral map of Oklahoma, it’s clear that while the more metro areas of our state are mixed between Democrats and Republicans, the rest of the state is solidly Republican and conservative.

During each election, both parties try to field candidates they think will appeal to voters and represent the true will and interests of the people of the state. Each election, candidates and the media plead with voters to study up on the candidates and make informed choices.

We don’t question that this latest Oklahoma election mostly reflects the will of the voters to elect the folks they believe most represent their values. However, we are concerned that Oklahoma’s “straight party” ballot could lead to voters not really taking their responsibilities seriously. Many voters are so party driven, they don’t consider the other options and vote for their party over the candidate.

Oklahoma is one of six states where voters can submit a “straight party” ballot, meaning a voter can check one box to vote for every candidate in a particular political party, rather than voting in every individual race.

Straight-party ballots in Oklahoma originally began under Democratic rule, when party leaders would tell voters to “stamp the rooster,” a reference to the Democrats’ icon on the ballot.

If you recall, Democrats held the same super majorities in the Legislature for many decades until the tide started to turn in the early 2000s. While many Democrats in Oklahoma are now calling for an end to the straight-party option on the ballot, that same initiative kept them in power back then just as the straight-party option is probably helping Republicans sustain their long-term power.

We can expect to see Democrats file some bills next legislative session to end straight-party voting. While we agree that is would be best for voters to select candidates individually, with a Republican-controlled Legislature, we don’t expect to see any of those initiatives gain much traction.

[Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 1924 – The year the Indian Citizenship Act formally made Native Americans U.S.citizens, but states continued to prevent them from voting for much longer, arguing that they: (1) did not pay taxes, (2) were under guardianship of the U.S. and therefore were incompetent to vote, (3) were not literate in English, and (4) were more citizens of the tribes and too closely tied to tribal culture to be citizens of the states in which they lived. [Native American Rights Fund]

  • 3 in 5 – Of the Oklahoma children who didn’t qualify for the full federal Child Tax Credit because their family earnings were too low or the adults were out of work that year, nearly 3 in 5 — about 62% — were Latino, Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or another race/multiple races. [CBPP]

What We’re Reading

  • A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement: Start with self-reflection. Before starting work on your land acknowledgment statement, reflect on the process: Why am I doing this land acknowledgment? (If you’re hoping to inspire others to take action to support Indigenous communities, you’re on the right track. If you’re delivering a land acknowledgment out of guilt or because everyone else is doing it, more self-reflection is in order.) What is my end goal? (What do you hope listeners will do after hearing the acknowledgment?) [Native Governance Center]

  • Child Tax Credit Expansion Would Shrink the Racial Wealth Gap: The Inflation Reduction Act’s adoption of corporate tax provisions is a big step toward a more equitable tax code, but lawmakers also must provide economic security for the millions of lower- and moderate-income households. [Joe Hughes and Brakeyshia Samms, ITEP / Bloomberg]


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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