Weekly Wonk: Improving the health of Oklahoma families | Justice reforms | Voting for tomorrow’s tomorrows

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

Enacting recommended expansion of pregnancy, postpartum care will represent a step forward for Oklahoma families: Oklahoma consistently ranks poorly on women’s and children’s health. While Oklahoma’s decision to expand Medicaid has significantly lowered the state’s uninsured rate, Oklahoma women have historically seen high rates of uninsurance. At 23.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, the state’s maternal mortality rate is much higher than the national rate of 20.1, and Black Oklahomans face an even higher mortality rate at 40.8. When compared with national peers, Oklahoma women face comparatively high levels of frequent mental and physical distress, and the state ranks 47th worst for infant mortality. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Interim study looks at retail theft, but lowering the felony threshold is not the solution (Capitol Update): Last week Representative Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, presented an interim study on organized theft from retail stores in his Judiciary-Criminal Committee that he chairs. Rep. Worthen was an assistant district attorney in Lawton for 29 years before being elected to the House in 2016 and generally views criminal justice issues through the lens of his background as a prosecutor. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Voting for tomorrow’s tomorrows: As the days wind down to the Nov. 8 general election, it’s important to realize that the decisions we make today should reflect both what’s best for this generation and what can improve the lives of those who will follow us. Taking the long view should remind us that the acts of governance are not a short-term game. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Voter ID Requirements

In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 746, which established new voter identification requirements. The state question requires voters to present a valid government-issued document that includes their name and picture or a voter identification card issued by their county election board. A person who cannot or does not provide one of those forms of identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot.

SQ 746 was approved with 74.3 percent of the vote and took effect in July 2011. After a lengthy legal challenge, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously upheld Oklahoma’s voter ID law in 2018.

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

Quote of the Week

“Voters are elevating beyond trigger phrases and emotionalism and taking a harder look at the state of our communities. And what we are finding is the same thing the data has proven several times over ― that both in Oklahoma and across the nation, our approach isn’t working. Incarceration is not keeping our communities safe.”

– Jasmine Thomas, the Oklahoma City fellow for IGNITE, the nation’s largest and most diverse young women’s political leadership organization, writing about the need for justice reform in Oklahoma [Jasmine Thomas Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Muskogee Phoenix Editorial: Do your civic duty — vote

We all know we should vote, and come Tuesday, we hope that everyone makes it to the polls to cast their ballots.

The commercials are never-ending. There’s been a lot of finger-pointing, half-truths and untruths bombarding us at every turn.

At this point in the game, politicians will say or do just about anything to try to sway voters.

Millions of dollars have been spent to undermine the character of candidates.

Is the money spent worth the effort? Most of those running for office will say yes, of course.

But until Democrats and Republicans learn how to work together, the divisions between them may only become greater.

Both parties must forge ahead. But it can’t always be a battle. There have to be ways to work things out without people deciding on their own that they should attack candidates (or candidates’ family members).

And politicians should despise people who act with violence on their behalf.

Fortunately, we have not seen what happened in San Francisco to Paul Pelosi happen here.

If you know that discussing politics with someone from the party other than yours will lead to an argument — or worse — take the high road. Change the subject. Bite your tongue. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Express your opinions at the ballot box.

We hope you have all done your homework and know how you plan to vote.

If you’re still not sure, do the research. There’s still time before Tuesday.

You can preview your ballot on the OK Voter Portal online. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, lines at the polls are typically longest before work, during the lunch hour, and after work.

They also note that if turnout is heavy at your precinct, be prepared for possible wait times. All eligible voters in line by 7 p.m. will be permitted to vote.

And no matter how you vote, just remember — Your vote counts!

[Editorial / Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 1 in 7 – More than 1 in 7 U.S. households paid over half of their income on housing. [Habitat For Humanity]
  • 160% – Percentage increase of the U.S. population of American Indian and Alaska Native in combination between 2010 and 2020 [U.S. Census Bureau]
  • 44th – Oklahoma’s national rank for infant mortality [America’s Health Rankings]
  • 23.5 – Rate of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Oklahoma. [Oklahoma State Department of Health]
  • 2,500-4,000 – Estimated annual number of pregnant Oklahomans who will have access to full pregnancy coverage through Medicaid when the state increases the income qualification threshold from 138 percent of the federal poverty level to 205 percent of the FPL. [Oklahoma Health Care Authority and OK Policy]

What We’re Reading

  • Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis Requires Expanding Rental Assistance and Adding Housing Units: Rents have increased over the last two years at a historic rate. Between December 2017 and September 2022, the median rent for newly leased units rose nearly 32 percent, with nearly all of that increase occurring in 2021 and 2022. These higher rents are especially hard for families with the lowest incomes to absorb. Closing the housing affordability gap will require a comprehensive housing strategy, including developing new units, preserving existing affordable housing, and expanding rental assistance. Expanding the Housing Choice Voucher program, as the 2023 House-passed Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding bill calls for, would most immediately help renters absorb cost increases. Such an expansion would help reach renters with the lowest incomes. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Maternity care ‘deserts’ on the rise across the U.S., report finds: A maternity care desert is defined by the organization as any county without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers. The latest report, which March of Dimes will publish on Wednesday, shows that the number of American counties categorized as deserts increased by 2% since the organization’s 2020 report. Over a third of all counties are designated by the report as maternity care deserts, most of which are in rural areas. Seven million women across the country live in areas of limited or no access to maternity health care services. [STAT]
  • The Next Steps To Advance Maternal And Child Health In Medicaid: Filling Gaps In Postpartum Coverage And Newborn Enrollment: Efforts to advance evidence-based postpartum care are crucial at a time when our nation’s maternal mortality rate—already vastly higher than those in other industrialized nations—continues to rise. Positive health outcomes for mothers and infants are determined largely by the health of women when they become pregnant, continuous high-quality care throughout pregnancy and delivery, and comprehensive, continuous postpartum care. Therefore, medical experts have emphasized the importance of optimizing postpartum care and support. [Health Affairs]
  • Maternal Health in the United States: The United States fares worse in preventing pregnancy-related deaths than most other developed nations.”…”One potential driver of maternal health disparities in the U.S. is non-communicable disease. Access to prenatal care also appears to play a role: women receiving no prenatal care are five times more likely to have a pregnancy-related death than women who receive prenatal care. Nearly 25% of all U.S. women start care late in pregnancy or do not receive the recommended number of prenatal visits; this number rises to 34% among African Americans and to 41% among American Indian or Alaska Native women. [Maternal Health Task Force, Harvard Chan School]
  • Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters:  Although Native Americans are among the fastest growing populations in the United States, there are strong forces preventing their full political participation. The factors discouraging political participation are: (1) geographical isolation; (2) physical and natural barriers; (3) poorly maintained or non-existent roads; (4) distance and limited hours of government offices; (5) technological barriers and the digital divide; (6) low levels of educational attainment; (7) depressed socio-economic conditions; (8) homelessness and housing insecurity; (9) non-traditional mailing addresses such as post office boxes; (10) lack of funding for elections; (11) and discrimination against Native Americans. [Native American Rights Fund]

NOTE: November is National Native American Heritage Month designated to celebrate Indigenous peoples and to honor Tribal sovereignty and Tribal self-determination.


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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