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Oklahoma Policy Institute’s David Blatt: ‘Our democracy is broken’

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Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma’s most recent elections saw the lowest voter turnout in over 50 years. Less than one-third of Oklahoma’s voting age citizens participated in an election that chose the state’s governor, the entire Congressional delegation, and numerous other offices. In nearly two-thirds of state House races, the winning candidate took office without any opposition in the general election.

“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our democracy is broken,” said David Blatt, Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute. A new report from OK Policy  examines what’s behind these disturbing trends and what Oklahoma can do to reverse them.

“As recently as 2006, Oklahomans voted at or above the national average,” said Blatt, who authored the report. “If Oklahoma passed reforms to make it easier, more of us would vote, and more regular people would have a say in the future of our state.”

In surveys, the top reasons given by the registered voters who don’t make it to the polls is that they were too busy, or that an illness or disability stopped them from voting

The report identifies a range of possible reforms to improve democratic participation in Oklahoma, which include:

  • Voter Information Pamphlets - In at least 16 states, state law require that election officials publish and distribute a voter information pamphlet. that helps voters be more informed about the issues and candidates they are voting on.
  • Online Voter Registration - Online registration, already in place in 13 states,  saves money, increases the accuracy of voter lists, is easier for voters, and reduces the chances of Election Day mix-ups.
  • Extend mail-in voting – Mail-in elections, in place in three states, are less expensive and administratively simpler to operate, and eliminate a host of problems associated with voters not being able to get to the polls or not knowing where to vote. Alternately, seven states currently allow voters to opt for “permanent absentee status,” which means that they will automatically be mailed an absentee ballot for each election.
  • Ballot Access Reform – Oklahoma has the nation’s most restrictive ballot access laws. Lowering the threshold for political parties and independent Presidential candidates to get on the ballot, as well as reducing the signature threshold for initiative petitions, would give Oklahoma a fuller range of choices.
  • Open Primaries - In Oklahoma, all primary elections are restricted to registered party voters, which leaves the growing number of political independents with no voice in selecting which candidate will appear on the general election ballot. A majority of states operate some form of open primary system.
  • Instant Run-off Primaries – Oklahoma’s current primary run-off system consistently has been shown to depress voter turnout. An alternative is the instant run-off, or preferential ballot, which allows voters to more fully express their electoral preferences and encourages candidates to engage a broader range of voters.

“We can debate the best solutions, but we can’t deny that the current system is falling short,” Blatt said. “Hopefully  this research will motivate more state leaders to take the problem seriously and make reforms that help more Oklahomans to be informed and engaged citizens.”

You can download the full report at okpolicy.org/brokendemocracy.

You can watch an animated video summarizing the report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzja2wjBExU.


Weston Comments On Everett Death

The Oklahoma Republican Party responded after news of the untimely death of Democrat 2nd Congressional District candidate Earl Everett after a car crash on Friday. It also responded to a statement by Oklahoma Democrat Party Chairman Wallace Collins in which he called for a special election.

OKGOP Chairman Dave Weston shared, ”We pray that the Earl Everett family will experience God’s peace in this time of hurt and grief. While we may disagree on policy our hearts mourn for their loss.”

Weston continued, ”It has also come to our attention that Democrat Chairman Wallace Collins is calling for a special election. We think this is unconscionable that Collins would be so callous to seek gain less than thirty-six hours from the untimely death of Mr. Everett. People have been voting absentee for a couple of weeks and have been voting in person starting this past Thursday. Suggestions from Wallace Collins that he will work to overturn the votes of an in-process election only serve to disenfranchise voters and disrespects the integrity of the process.”


Voter Registration Deadline Is Friday

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Friday is the deadline to register to vote in the November 4th general election.

Absentee ballot requests must be filed before October 20th.


Russell Won Absentee, Early Voting Ballots

Early voting results have Steve Russell with a 13 percent lead over opponent Patrice Douglas, the lead fueled n part by Russell’s strong showing in absentee and early voting ballots.

Russell won absentees 1,188 to 946 and early voting ballots 308 to 221.


Will GOP Turnout Top 2010?

Mike McCarville

There are indications today’s Republican  voter turnout could top the 249,069 total in 2010.

Absentee requests were on par with that year and early voting results this morning indicate moderate to heavy volume in some precincts.

There are several reasons the GOP vote today could be higher than in 2010:

1 – The spirited Senate race.

2 – The multi-candidate race for Congress in the 5th District.

3 – The contentious race for schools superintendent.

4 – The race for corporation commissioner.

5 – Ideal voting weather.

And, there are some reasons the turnout in some areas won’t be strong:

1 – The lack of a congressional primary in the 1st District.

2 – The lack of a serious challenge to Senator Jim Inhofe.

All of the major campaigns reportedly have aggressive voter turnout efforts underway.

Overall, the lack of interest in Democrat campaigns could dampen total voter turnout. In 2010, 263,688 Democrats voted in the primary election.

“Democratic turnout will be abysmal,” said Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor speaking to the Tulsa World. “They (Democrats) have a superintendent primary and that is about it.”

The polls close at 7 p.m. The McCarville Report will have returns as soon as they are available.

How’s the voting in your precinct? Let us know: mccarvillereport@aol.com


Ziriax: Voting Reminders

Oklahoma’s statewide Primary Election is on Tuesday, June 24, but the deadline to request an absentee ballot is this Wednesday and early voting runs Thursday through Saturday.

Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said voters should be aware of several upcoming election-related dates and deadlines.

Last time to request an absentee ballot

Wednesday, June 18, 5:00 PM

Early (In-Person Absentee) Voting at County Election Board offices[1]

Friday, June 20, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Thursday, June 19, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Saturday, June 21, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

NOTE: NO early voting on Mon., June 23[2]

Election Day – Polls Open

Tuesday, June 24, 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Last time for mail absentee ballots to be received at County Election Board

Tuesday, June 24, 7:00 PM

Voter registration for the Primary Election is closed, but voters may still register for the August 26 Runoff Primary Election and November 4 General Election.

Oklahoma has a “closed” Primary system, meaning only registered voters of a political party may vote in that party’s Primary. However, Independent voters may vote in non-partisan races or questions on the ballot in their precinct.

Voters may use the State Election Board’s new Online Voter Tool (available at http://elections.ok.gov) to confirm their voter registration, find their precinct, view sample ballots, and track their mail absentee ballot.

Answers to common election-related questions, can be found online at the State Election Board’s website: http://elections.ok.gov.


Voter Registration Deadline Friday

Election Board

Voters have until Friday May 30 to register to vote in the June 24 Primary Election, Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.

Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website at http://elections.ok.gov. They are also available at county election boards, post offices, tag agencies, libraries and some other public locations.

Voters must either register in person or mail their registration forms in and have them postmarked before the deadline.

Sample ballots for the Primary Election are also available at county election boards and can be viewed online using the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool. The tool also allows voters to check their registration information, polling place and track absentee ballots. It can be accessed at http://elections.ok.gov.


Cornett Buries Shadid 65-32%

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett buried his primary challenger, Councilman Ed Shadid, in Tuesday’s mayoral election.

With 224 of 235 precincts reporting, Cornett had 31,447 votes, or 65.7 percent, to 15,734, or 32.9 percent, for Shadid. Two other candidates, Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson, were drew 1.4 percent.

Final results:

235 of 235 Precincts Completely Reporting
ABSENTEE
MAIL
EARLY
VOTING
ELECTION
DAY
TOTAL
ED SHADID 576 379 14,784 15,739 32.8%
PHIL HUGHES 27 5 300 332 0.7%
JOE SARGE NELSON 23 6 339 368 0.8%
MICK CORNETT 1,946 498 29,051 31,495 65.7%
Total 2,572 888 44,474 47,934

Early Absentee Voting Date Changes

A new state law effective November 1 changed the dates and times state voters have come to expect for in-person “early” absentee voting across Oklahoma.

“Starting this November, early voting days in Oklahoma have changed from Friday/Monday to Thursday/Friday,” explained State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax. “As a result, Thursday, Nov. 7 is the first day for in-person ‘early’ absentee voting in counties with elections on Nov. 12. The hours for early voting remain 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Early voting on Monday is discontinued,” Ziriax said.

These changes are occurring due to the 2013 passage by the Oklahoma Legislature of Senate Bill 869, which was signed into law last May.

In addition, Saturdays will continue to be early voting days for all state and federal elections. Because the Nov. 12, 2013, election is not a federal or state election, but rather a special election, no Saturday early voting will occur this month. However, whenever it’s available, the hours for Saturday early voting at County Election Board offices statewide will change to 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (previously, Saturday early voting began and ended one hour earlier). During federal and state elections, when voter turnout is often the heaviest, the Saturday early voting option provides voters with a third opportunity to vote early.

“These changes will help County Election Board officials to place their focus entirely on Election Day preparations, instead of conducting early voting during the day immediately preceding an election,” the state election board secretary explained.

For more information about absentee voting in Oklahoma, as well as other election-related information, visit the State Election Board website at: http://elections.ok.gov.


Fallin Signs Absentee Ballot Access Measure

Legislation signed by Governor Fallin will help individuals who are not physically able to travel to the county election board send a person in their place to make an application for an absentee ballot.

Senate Bill 276, by Senator Randy Bass and Rep. Joe Dorman, requires the person sent to make an application for an absentee ballot to be at least 16 years of age and only do so for one voter. It took immediate effect upon being signed into law.

“I have had constituents who have talked to us about problems elderly and disabled Oklahomans have had with voting and I wanted to improve the absentee ballot application process for them to ensure their vote is counted,” said Bass, D-Lawton. “This bill limits a single individual to one absentee ballot application on behalf of another person to make sure it is not a vehicle for voter fraud. I was pleased to see it signed into law.”

“We had an primary election in 2012 with very low turnout in some Western Oklahoma districts and I want to ensure that low turnout isn’t made worse because certain members of the community are unable to get out to vote,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “This legislation improves the absentee ballot application process so that individuals who are confined to their home for one reason or another can still have their vote counted.”

 


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