Tulsa voters will have many decisions to make when they step into the voting booth November 8.
The top of the ticket will be the race for president. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton is the Democrat nominee who is under a fresh investigation by the FBI concerning her use of a private email server and the lack of security of classified documents while she was secretary of state.
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has never held public office.
Neither Mrs. Clinton or Trump won the Oklahoma primaries but polls indicate that Trump should carry the Sooner State. Oklahoma has voted for the Republican nominee for president in every national election since 1964 (when Lyndon B. Johnson carried Oklahoma).
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson will be on the Oklahoma ballot but the Green Party candidates and other Independents won’t be. Oklahoma voters cannot write in candidates.
Aside from the presidential race, Oklahomans will vote on:
- The U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma;
- State Senate and State House races;
- Judicial retention for the Oklahoma Supreme Court (two justices), the Court of Criminal Appeals (two judges) and the Court of Civil Appeals (three judges)’
- Three Tulsa City Council races in District 1, 2 and 9;
- Seven state questions, including:
SQ776 – Strengthens the death penalty
SQ777 – The Right to Farm Bill
SQ779 – A 22 percent (one penny) hike in state sales tax
SQ780 – Reclassifying drug possession laws from felonies to misdemeanors
SQ781 – A companion bill to SQ780
SQ790 – Restoration of the Ten Commandments to the State Capitol (repeal of the Blaine Amendment)
SQ792 – Liberalization of the state alcohol laws
Passage of SQ779 would include a salary increase for teachers and backers claim it is needed to end the teacher shortage.
The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma state policy think tank, has published “Oklahoma’s Teacher Supply: Shortage or Surplus?” a paper critical of claims that there is a significant teacher shortage in Oklahoma set to grow significantly in the future. The study’s authors, Byron Schlomach, director of the 1889 Institute, and Baylee Butler, a Research Associate of the 1889 Institute, reviewed available evidence including anecdotes, emergency certifications and a professional-quality study chiefly commissioned by the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education.
“The biggest problem with the teacher shortage narrative is that the evidence is just scant,” said Byron Schlomach, co-author of the paper. “The fact that there are several hundred unfilled teacher positions at the beginning of August in a state with 42,000 teachers is evidence of pretty much nothing as far as a shortage goes.”
The paper points out that 542 August teacher position openings reported by Oklahoma’s school boards association constitute a very small proportion, just over one percent, of Oklahoma’s active teachers. While much has been made of emergency certifications, these constitute only 2 percent of all teachers. Sixty to seventy percent of those emergency certified in key subjects clearly had related college degrees and must pass subject exams. Also, 41 percent of emergency certifications were in elementary education and early childhood, not complex academic subjects.
“It seems telling that only three districts – Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Putnam City – requested 36 percent of all emergency certifications from January 2015 through September 2016 when they educate only 19 percent of the state’s students,” said Schlomach.
The authors also reviewed a study by the American Institutes for Research, which shows only a 0.62 percent shortage of Oklahoma teachers in the future.
“For me, the American Institutes for Research study is the most persuasive evidence that most of the talk about a teacher shortage is almost meaningless,” said Baylee Butler, the paper’s lead author. “After all, a trivial increase in average class size would eliminate the shortage, and the study is based on the best hard data available,” she said.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett along with other mayors are against the sales tax hike.
Paying down city debt
Eric McCray, a candidate for Tulsa’s District 9 City Council seat, wants Tulsa to pay down its debt. “Tulsa is my home, a beautiful city with a high standard of living that costs less than nearly other city across the United States,” McCray said. “We get more for our money here than anywhere else. Why shouldn’t our city government be the same way?”
McCray said Tulsa has accumulated at least $1.731 billion dollars in current debt stretching back to 1985 all the way to 2043 – over 50 years of debt. To service this debt alone, Tulsa spent $138 million dollars last year, 40 percent of all taxes collected, while only spending $30 million dollars on roads, McCray said.
“This debt costs us an effective interest rate of at least 8 percent a year, far outstripping inflation rate averages of 2.5 percent, thus negating the argument in favor of running the city on debt,” McCray said.
McCray, who owns his own business, said Tulsa should manage its finances as a business would and eliminate debt and help deal with the sales tax shortfalls.
Lt. Governor for SQ790
Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb is encouraging Oklahomans to vote “yes” on State Question 790.
“I’m proud to call Oklahoma home – a state where we love our neighbors, respect our differences and work together to make our state the best it can be,” said Lamb. “These fundamental values are precisely why I believe we must vote ‘yes’ on 790 and get rid of the Blaine Amendment once and for all. Our state should always be a place where religious freedom is encouraged, where prayer is welcome before the big game, where fundamental services are available at all hospitals, and where parents have a wider range of opportunities and choices when planning their children’s education.”
In-person absentee voting
Tulsa County early in-person absentee voters will have the opportunity to vote at either the Tulsa County Election Board office, 555 North Denver Avenue or Hardesty Library, 8316 East 93 Street. Early voting hours at both locations will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 3 and 4, and also from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. November 5.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election Day, November 8. Lines are possible at peak voting times. Anyone in line to vote at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.
Anyone who needs to look up their polling place, verify their registration information, or view a sample ballot can do so at the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website: www.elections.ok.gov.
Voters who have moved since the last election, but who have not transferred their voter registration to their new address, may do so on Election Day by going to vote at the polling place where their registration has been in the past. While voting, they may fill out a form instructing the County Election Board to transfer their registration to the new address before the next election. Electioneering is not allowed within 300 feet of a ballot box. It is unlawful to remove a ballot from the polling location, possess intoxicating liquors within half a mile of a polling place or to disclose how you voted while within the election enclosure.
Muslim voting guide
The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a “voter guide” for Oklahomans.
The Muslim advocacy group is advising no votes for State Question 776 (death penalty), State Question 777 (Right to Farm) and State Question 790 (religious liberty – repeal of the Blaine Amendment).
CAIR wants yes votes for State Questions 780 and 781 (changing drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor). CAIR does not take a position on State Question 779 (state sales tax increase) or State Question 792 (liberalizing liquor laws).
Liberal media endorsements
Here is a list of some endorsements by the liberal Tulsa World:
- All judges on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals;
- Democrat Kimberly Fobbs in Senate District 33;
- Democrat Lloyd Snow, former school superintendent in Sand Springs, in Senate District 37;
- Democrat Paul Sullivan in House District 69;
- Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catossa, in House District 23;
- Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, in House District 71;
- Democrat Jeri Moberly in House District 74 (Owasso);
- Democrat Meloyde Blancett in House District 78 (Midtown).
- Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, in House District 79;
- Democrat Tom Bates in House District 80;
- Yes on State Question 779, which raises state sales tax by 22 percent;
- No on State Question 776, which enforces capital punishment;
- No on State Question 777, the Right to Farm amendment;
- Yes on State Questions 780 and 781, which turn felony drug possession into misdemeanors;
- No on State Question 790, which would repeal the Blaine Amendment, restore religious liberty and allow the Ten Commandments Monument back at the State Capitol;
- Yes on State Question 792 to increase liquor sales;
- Democrat Councilor Jack Henderson in Tulsa City Council District 1;
- Republican Councilor Jeannie Cue in Tulsa City Council District 2;
- Ben Kimbro for Tulsa Council District 9;
- U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma; U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma; U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma; and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma.
A listing of the Tulsa Beacon’s endorsements are here.