Whatzup Politics (1307)
(Oklahoma City) – Fifty (50) counties will have elections on Tuesday, August 25. Several counties will also have local or county elections on the ballot. The State Election Board offers these tips and reminders for Oklahoma voters before they head to the polls.
Not every voter will have an election on August 25. Election officials recommend using the OK Voter Portal to verify your voting information.
If you have a sample ballot in the portal, you have an election in your precinct. If you do not have a sample ballot, you do not have an election.
Voters are reminded to check the OK Voter Portal to verify their polling place before heading out to vote. Some polling places may have changed due to the COVID-19 emergency.
ELECTION DAY HOURS
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Lines at the polls are typically longest before work, during the lunch hour, and after work.
Oklahoma has closed primaries. In order to vote in a party’s primary or subsequent runoff, you must be a registered voter of that party. Recognized parties may open their primaries to Independent voters. For the 2020 and 2021 election years, the Democratic Party has elected to open its primaries to Independents. The Republican and Libertarian parties have chosen to keep their primaries closed.
If you are an Independent voter and would like to vote a Democratic ballot, please be sure to let the poll worker know when you check in.
The State Election Board worked with OU Health Sciences Center to develop safety protocols for all of Oklahoma’s polling places and county election boards, including social distancing procedures and disinfection requirements for voting equipment and surfaces. Poll workers at every location have been supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE) including hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and disinfectant.
Voters are asked to be patient and follow signage and procedures. While it is not required, state election officials strongly recommend that voters wear a mask or face covering to protect themselves and those around them.
Find more on COVID-19 and the 2020 elections on the State Election Board website.
PROOF OF IDENTITY
Oklahoma law requires every voter who votes in person to show proof of identity before receiving a ballot.
There are three ways for voters to prove their identity under the law. (Only one proof of identity is required):
- Show a valid photo ID issued by the federal, state, or tribal government; or
- Show the free voter identification card issued to every voter by their County Election Board; or
- Sign an affidavit and vote a provisional ballot. (If the information on the affidavit matches official voter registration records, the ballot will be counted after Election Day.)
State and county election officials are always your trusted sources for information. Visit the State Election Board website to learn more about elections in Oklahoma.
OK Voter Portal: https://www.ok.gov/elections/OVP.html
Closed Primaries: https://www.ok.gov/elections/Election_Info/Political_Party_info.html
COVID-19 and the 2020 Elections:
Proof of Identity: https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Proof_of_Identity/index.html
State Election Board Website: https://www.ok.gov/elections/index.html
Letter Urges BoE to Change Safety Recommendations to Requirements
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Democratic Education Policy Group sent a letter to the Oklahoma State Board of Education urging the board to use their upcoming meeting to change the COVID-19 recommendations to requirements.
The Board released the “Oklahoma School Safety Protocols, ” which made recommendations based on the White House COVID-19 Task Force color-coded alert system on July 23. By making the protocols only recommendations, the board left implementation decisions to the school districts. A recent Oklahoma Media Center report surveyed 136 districts in counties at Orange Level 2 or higher -- only six started the year with distance learning.
“Schools across the state have begun to reopen with mixed results and mixed responses,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano, the primary author of the letter. “Each day we read of newly confirmed cases tied to school buildings across our state. Schools are doing their level best to manage this crisis and continue to educate our children. We applaud them. Now they need our support, and they need us to shoulder this responsibility with them.”
The policy group hopes the board acknowledges that designating teachers as essential workers also requires a deeper investment into the safety of our educators.
“Essential does not mean expendable, and this new designation must come with ample access to the right safety and sanitation practices as well as PPE supplies for all building staff to do their job as safely as possible,” Provenzano said. “We want the safe return to in-person instruction to remain the goal. The best way to do this is to follow the science and protect everyone involved.”
State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, like many of the members of the education policy group, is a former classroom teacher. He sees the recommendations as a step too short.
“I believe that this pandemic calls on all of us to put our best effort forward to defeat it,” Rosecrants said. “That best effort is a statewide response. I don’t believe COVID has to be Oklahoma’s ‘new normal.’ In fact, if we work together as a state and do what is necessary to prevent the spread of this virus, we can indeed get back to doing what is important, which includes educating our children and of course, beating Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Prevention is the key.”
Democratic Caucus Education Policy Group Members: Rep. Melissa Provenzano (Chair) Rep. Kelly Albright, Rep. Andy Fugate, Rep. Monroe Nichols, Rep. Trish Ranson, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants and Rep. John Waldron
LINK TO LETTER: House Democratic Caucus Letter to State Board of Education
WASHINGTON— Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting against legislation pushing Speaker Pelosi’s Postal Service conspiracy theory.
“Speaker Pelosi is continuing to push her baseless conspiracy theory that President Trump is trying to sabotage the election and the USPS will go under if they don’t get this funding. That is simply not true,” Mullin said. “The Postal Service has had funding issues for years and the changes they made are necessary to keep them solvent for future generations. President Trump delayed the changes until after the elections, but that wasn’t good enough for Speaker Pelosi. Her universal mail-in voting scheme is just another step towards socialism that will only create more problems than it will allegedly solve. It is reckless for Pelosi Democrats to attempt to use the Postal Service as a political pawn to push their socialist agenda.”
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the USPS has lost $69 billion over the past 11 fiscal years. In the CARES Act passed earlier this year, the U.S. Treasury made a $10 billion loan available to the USPS. Current projections show the Postal Service will remain solvent until August 2021.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, and State Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, today held an interim study examining ways to increase access to retirement savings tools for people that currently do not have access to a plan through their employer. The joint study was hosted by the House Banking, Financial Services and Pensions Committee and the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee.
The two said studies show that more than 50% of working Oklahomans currently do not have a retirement benefits package in place.
“This has long-term consequences not only for these individuals who will suffer quality-of-life issues when they retire without adequate benefits in place,” McEntire said. “But this potentially harms state taxpayers as a whole as a demand on their tax dollars is made to help with the cost of health care coverage and other services needed by an aging population.”
Montgomery, who authored Senate Bill 1890 last session, said helping Oklahomans better plan for retirement improves Oklahoma’s long-term fiscal picture as well.
“Ultimately, it is just fiscally prudent to encourage savings for individuals,” Montgomery said. “Estimates indicate that enhanced retirement savings would save hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars over the next couple of decades and bolster our state economy. Enabling individuals to better secure their financial future means they will be able to participate in health care of their choice longer, have an additional income source, and less likely to draw down lesser Social Security benefits earlier.”
Senate Bill 1890, of which McEntire was the House author, sought to establish the Oklahoma Sooner Choice Trust Program Fund, which would have been used to administer individual retirement accounts made optional to people employed by small businesses. Under the proposal, employees would have been able to choose to have at least 3% of their pay automatically withheld to be invested on their behalf. They also would have been able to select options for investment vehicles, ranging from conservative to more aggressive. Employers would not be mandated to match funds contributed by employees.
The bill was sidelined when work at the Capitol ceased for six weeks this spring during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation enjoyed bipartisan support and earned the endorsement of State Treasurer Randy McDaniel, but some expressed concerns that the program might be an overreach of the state into the private business sector. The lawmakers said they requested the interim study to address the concerns and explore more tools that could be useful to small businesses that wish to offer their employees a retirement plan using statewide leverage to help.
Representatives from AARP participated in Thursday’s study. The group recently conducted a study that revealed that of 500 Oklahoma businesses that employ fewer than 100 people, 68% offered no retirement savings plan. An additional 72% of state businesses with fewer than 10 employees offered no such plan.
“We greatly appreciate Senator Montgomery and Representative McEntire tackling this important issue,” said Joe Ann Vermillion, AARP Oklahoma Volunteer State President. “We know half of all Oklahomans lack access to a retirement savings program through their employer and that number jumps to 70% when an employer has less than 50 employees. With the retirement savings gap growing, the cost of doing nothing is too great. Helping employees of small businesses secure their financial future will pay significant dividends to our state.”
Marcus McEntire serves District 50 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Jefferson County and parts of Stephens County. John Michael Montgomery serves District 32 in the Oklahoma Senate, which includes parts of Comanche County.
State Reps. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, held two interim studies on Wednesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education, over which they serve as chair and vice-chair respectively.
Both lawmakers hosted the first study – Exploration of Student and School Improvement Models and Digital Improvement Platforms – which looked at meeting the needs of schools, teachers, students and communities in the changing environment of digital transformation.
“Educators are working hard to navigate the challenge of starting back to school amid this COVID-19 pandemic,” McBride said. “Many districts are offering virtual or blended-learning models for their students in case they need to or just desire to work from home. But this has forced us all to take a look at what digital platforms are available statewide to make sure each student has equal access to rigorous education materials and high quality teaching so they are fully prepared for their future.”
Hasenbeck, a former teacher, said COVID exposed a need with which school already were grappling.
“Many of our teachers want to expand their digital learning knowledge, and COVID showed us they can learn these skills at the same time their students are learning,” Hasenbeck said.
“One thing COVID has done is infused more federal dollars into our schools so they can buy hardware and improve internet connections for teachers and students,” Hasenbeck said. “But this study is way beyond that. This is about increasing resources for our students and our teachers.”
She said just in the course of preparing for this study she and other lawmakers learned about many products that Oklahoma already has access to, but also others that will increase reading, math, science and other core skills in students.
Ryan Walters from Every Kid Counts spoke to the committee about the Learning Clearinghouse, with which his organization hopes to negotiate a statewide contract. This would be a place where students could log in to learn things they need to know. Hasenbeck said teachers could use this resource to help students who are either above or below grade level, so those students could be engaged while the teacher helps the rest of the class.
In the afternoon, Hasenbeck held a separate study examining teachers’ health insurance, retirement, retirement credit and flexible benefits and their ever-increasing costs.
“With term limits, we’ve lost some of the institutional knowledge we had in the Legislature about education budgeting,” Hasenbeck said. “I felt it was time for us to have this discussion to give all lawmakers a full understanding of everything that goes into a teacher’s benefits package and the true cost of each item. That way, when we’re having our yearly talks about the size of the education budget, we can fully distinguish between classroom dollars and teachers’ compensation.”
Hasenbeck invited a superintendent to detail the difference between compensation for a traditional versus a retired teacher. She also invited speakers to break down health insurance costs.
Mike Jackson, the new director of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) described how his office might be of use in the future to help lawmakers solve problems such as addressing the rising cost of state employee benefits. The State Department of Education also added to the discussion.
Mark McBride serves District 53 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Moore in Cleveland County. Toni Hasenbeck serves House District 65, which includes Cotton County and parts of Comanche, Grady and Stephens counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Ty Burns, R-Morrison, held an interim study examining the effects of misused tax exemptions and veterans’ benefits during Tuesday’s House Appropriations and Budget on Finance Subcommittee meeting.
Burns said he filed Interim Study 20-011 to learn in depth about details surrounding stolen valor, including misused veterans’ benefits, within the state. In such instances, a person may create a fake identification card or pose as a family member who is a veteran to take advantage of benefits such as tax exemptions, home loans, education benefits and pensions.
“Unfortunately, it’s very common for someone to misrepresent their service or take advantage of veterans’ benefits intended for a family member,” Burns said. “The misuse of these benefits and tax exemptions adds yet another roadblock that prevents veterans from receiving the benefits they need. My hope is that by identifying how this happens, we can consider steps to stop it from happening in the future so we can continue to protect our state’s veterans.”
Burns said one of his concerns was ensuring 501c3 nonprofits that raise money in Oklahoma spend a portion of that money within Oklahoma to aid the state’s veterans.
Joel Kintsel, who serves as executive director of Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke at the interim study.
“I really appreciate the hard work Representative Burns and the committee put into today’s interim study,” Kintsel said. “It is so important to ensure that the service and sacrifice of genuine Oklahoma veterans is not diminished by those who seek to receive benefits they did not earn.”
According to an update from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, about 40,000 veteran identification cards have been in circulation since 2005. ODVA reported that they track about 22,000 of the current cards.
During the study, Burns and the other attendees discussed the possibility of crossover IDs to provide an extra layer of security and lower the risk of stolen identification. One suggested option was an added symbol on drivers’ licenses to identify the person as a disabled veteran.
Burns is a military veteran and became a decorated infantryman over his 20-year career. Burns was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of several awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantry Badge.
The House approved more than 70 interim studies this year, which must be completed by Oct. 29. Interim studies give lawmakers the opportunity to meet, gather data and speak with experts on matters important to the state and that could potentially result in changes to existing legislation or new state law.
A video of the Burns’ interim study is available at https://okhouse.gov/Video/Default.aspx.
Rep. Ty Burns, R-Morrison, represents House District 35 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Pawnee County and portions of Noble, Payne, Creek and Osage counties.
Don’t Use the Postal Service as a Political Pawn
By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
You may have heard recently the United States Postal Service (USPS) needs more money now or they will permanently shut their doors. That is simply not true. Speaker Pelosi is attempting to scare the American people into believing her baseless conspiracy theory so she can implement her universal mail-in voting scheme.
Under this scheme, Pelosi Democrats want to essentially eliminate in-person voting and send every person over the age of 18 a ballot to their home in order to cast their vote, regardless of whether or not they are registered to vote or if they even asked for a ballot. At one time or another, we have all received someone else’s mail in our mailboxes. Sending every adult in the United States a ballot - whether or not they asked for one - undermines the integrity of our elections and creates an environment for voter fraud to run rampant.
Our election system is crucial to the foundation of our country and it must be secure. Every American should have confidence their vote will be counted. If you do not want to vote in-person because of health concerns, you can still request an absentee ballot be sent to you - just like you always have been able to do.
Universal mail-in voting is just another step towards socialism that will only create more problems than it will allegedly solve. Make no mistake, the Postal Service will not go under if we don’t give them money for universal mail-in voting.
The USPS provides a vital service to the American people, especially those in rural areas. 80 percent of veterans received their medications by mail, and more than half of small businesses rely on the USPS to do business. In the CARES Act passed earlier this year, the Treasury Department lent the USPS $10 billion to help them through the pandemic. We must continue to work to make the USPS more efficient and fiscally responsible so it can continue to serve the American people for generations to come.
It is reckless for Pelosi Democrats to attempt to use the Postal Service as a political pawn to push their socialist agenda.
Want to stay up-to-date on what I’m doing in Oklahoma and Washington on your behalf? Sign up for my newsletter by visiting Mullin.house.gov/newslettersignup.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, today released a statement on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
“This is a special day. Many American women fought hard to get their government to acknowledge their right to participate in our Democracy. We cannot recognize this day, however, without also recognizing that not all women gained the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.
That right would remain elusive for Black women until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Still, the 19th Amendment is a reason for Americans to celebrate. Over the last century, more Americans have gained the right to vote, and when more Americans can vote, our government better reflects the needs of its citizens.
“Yet, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary, let us also realize that the plight of the suffragettes still exists today.
“Recently, all across our state and country, elected female leaders have been insulted, attacked, and threatened in ways their male counterparts simply don’t experience in the course of their jobs. This is behavior that must change.
“In recognition of this historic movement, I hope that all citizens will look within themselves and ask how they can contribute to this march toward a more inclusive, stronger community.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, was joined by representatives from the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office as Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 3756 in a ceremony last week.
House Bill 3756, authored by Miller, authorizes the use of videoconferencing technology in all stages of civil or criminal proceedings except in jury trials or trials before judges.
“We started working on this legislation in September 2019 because videoconferencing seemed like a simple solution to help save our criminal justice system both time and money, as well as maintaining public safety,” Miller said. “Of course, we never could have predicted how much more valuable and useful the bill would become. There couldn’t be a better time to offer videoconferencing to Oklahoma’s district court system, which in turn impacts county jails and the Department of Corrections, and I appreciate the work done by its supporters to pass the legislation.”
Miller said the idea was proposed to her by Frank Urbanic, a criminal defense attorney and constituent of House District 82.
“What initially started as a way to allow an attorney to plead for his or her client without that client being physically present turned into a bill that brings our courts into the 21st century,” Urbanic said. “We’re only scratching the surface right now on the efficiencies produced by this legislation. Something we didn’t envision when we stared working on this legislation was the impact a pandemic would have on our court system. This legislation assures every court in the future that video teleconferencing is authorized when there are public health concerns.”
The Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections (DOC) and the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association (OSA) were among the groups supporting HB3756.
This bill helps propel the idea of expanding current technology to protect the public. The pandemic forces us to open our minds to alternative methods to accomplish the task,” said DOC spokeswoman Jessica Brown. “Virtual hearings are one such alternative. ODOC greatly appreciates Rep. Miller’s partnering with public safety to achieve passage of this bill.”
“Rep. Miller’s House Bill 3756 has advanced the use of virtual hearings for sheriffs across the state. This will provide an immeasurable cost savings for the citizens in Oklahoma,” said Ray McNair, who serves as executive director of OSA.
The bill was formally signed into law in May and will go into effect Nov. 1.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement in response to Governor Stitt’s announcement that he will enroll Oklahoma into the Lost Wages Assistance program.
“While we appreciate Governor Stitt’s concern for unemployed Oklahomans, it is disappointing that he would sign them up for a 50 percent reduction in their federal unemployment benefits,” Virgin said. “Oklahomans work hard, and they deserve to be protected. Decreasing this benefit hurts Oklahoma’s workforce, small businesses, and our communities that rely on sales tax to survive.
“It seems that the governor hopes he can enroll Oklahoma into this program, and then our state will be omitted from the higher unemployment benefit in the stimulus package Congress passes. Two days before the White House announced the federal unemployment program, Governor Stitt said Oklahomans didn’t need additional federal assistance. Unless he has changed his mind, it makes sense that this reduced-rate program is an attempt to limit the federal assistance Oklahomans receive.
“Oklahomans deserve to have a governor who is an advocate for their federal tax dollars coming home, not an adversary. Unfortunately, reduced federal unemployment isn’t the first time the governor has argued to keep Oklahoma’s federal tax dollars in Washington, D.C. His entire political career, he has advocated against the 9 to 1 match of Medicaid expansion.
“I understand the governor’s desire to reduce the national debt, but attempting to settle the liability of a nation on the backs of Oklahomans is cruel and unfair.”