Tulsa, Okla. (Tulsa World) — With the primary election on Tuesday, it’s become clear Oklahoma’s mostly closed system produces more extreme candidates, particularly among the dominant Republican Party. Conservative candidates seek to out-conservative each other to the fringes to win the taxpayer-funded primary. This edges out candidates interested in more broad-based governing, prevents honest political discourse and focuses on divisive cultural issues. This system puts power in parties, not people. We are encouraged by the efforts of Unmute Oklahoma, which has an online petition to build support for changing the state primaries.
Tulsa, Okla. (KOTV) — The Oklahoma primary election is coming up on June 28th, and one organization is fighting for open primaries. Currently, Oklahoma has closed primaries, meaning people can only vote within their registered party. Those registered as "Independent" can only vote if one of the parties allows it. "Unmute Oklahoma" has created a petition to repeal closed primaries in Oklahoma. Click Here for more information or to sign the petition.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KOKH) — Did Oklahoma have the lowest eligible voter participation of any state in the November 2020 general election? That's what the group Oklahoma United for Progress is saying. But is it true? It turns out — according to data from the Pew Research Center — that the organization's claim is correct.
TULSA, Okla. (Public Radio Tulsa) — Did you know that Democratic primaries in Oklahoma allow Independent voters to participate, but Republican primaries DON'T allow Independents to do so? And did you know that only about 55% of eligible voters in Oklahoma actually voted in the November 2020 election...and that this is the lowest voter-participation percentage nationwide? Our conversation on ST is about how to get more voters voting in the Sooner State, and our guest is Margaret Kobos, the founder of Oklahoma United for Progress. This organization is today (Thursday the 16th; here in Tulsa) launching a statewide campaign -- "a sort of road show," as Kobos puts it -- aimed at both generating awareness and gathering petition signatures in order to repeal closed primaries in Oklahoma. You can learn more about this campaign, and can sign the online petition, at unmuteok.org.
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — "We want to improve voter participation in Oklahoma," said Margaret Kobos of Oklahoma United for Progress. When she saw the data on voter turnout in Oklahoma, she was not happy. "When we saw that Oklahoma is last in eligible voter participation every single cycle in the country, always last," she said. So to try to change that she's about to launch a campaign to open up primaries to Independents.
LOOK WHAT WE DID!
READ OUR OKUNITED EDITORIAL HERE
Open primaries will give voice to political middle
(published 2/13/2022, Tulsa World)
We could fill this space with all the real-world problems in Oklahoma we’re not fixing.
We could list neglected public schools, mental health, addiction, public safety, employment, roads and tax and budget policies. Oklahoma is ranked 48th in education and 43rd in overall livability.
We lag our regional sister states while they beckon our businesses, families, teachers and graduates. Despite sporadic innovations, often generated by private citizens and businesses, nearly half of Oklahomans have so little faith in democracy that they don’t vote.
We kick the can down the road and patch with bandaids instead of tackling the fundamental challenges that hold us and our economy back.
That’s because we’re electing politicians with no incentive to govern. Our general election races are increasingly uncompetitive, and voters have no interest in meaningless elections. The real decisions are made in primary contests. In Oklahoma’s closed primary system, only the most partisan voters participate. To these voters, and these voters alone, our resulting politicians believe they’re accountable.
This closed loop produces a revolving door through which politicians are elected and re-elected by placating the most partisan voters, at the expense of the rest of us.
All taxpayers fund Oklahoma primary elections, but not all get to vote in them.
Independents, who make up almost 20% of registered voters and growing, do not have the statutory right to vote in primaries.
The state's Democratic Party has allowed independent voters in its primary since 2015 and has informed the State Election Board it will continue that practice through 2023, but the Republican Party does not.
We spend millions every election season on primary contests that privilege certain voters and shut out 20% of those funding them. That’s not right.
As a result of our closed system, Oklahoma has earned the honor of having the worst eligible voter turnout in the entire U.S. nearly every one of the last 20 years.
In 2020, we were dead last in voter turnout behind Arkansas and West Virginia. Only 55% of eligible Oklahomans voted. The remaining forty-five percent of our eligible voters didn’t participate: the 20% block of Independents were shut out by law, and another 25% were uninspired to show up.
As we drift further and further into extreme partisanship, this narrative will never help us fix real problems or sell Oklahoma to new businesses and families.
What if instead of shaking our heads and accepting things as they are, we all supported one fundamental legislative tweak with the real potential to help elect our best possible representatives, empower them to solve our challenges, hold them personally accountable and put Oklahoma in front as a regional leader: open primaries.
Senator Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, has filed Senate Bill 1754 to do just that.
Open primaries, operating just like our general elections are a simple, cost-saving solution with profound implications - drawing us together, not apart.
This bill would give all voters the right to choose the candidate they like from any party on a single ballot.
It’s called a nonpartisan, top-two primary, and it’s the standard in most cities across the country.
It's used in Oklahoma for municipal races in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
At least 14 states have open primaries, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Two others, California and Washington, use a top-two format listing the political affiliation of candidates.
The general election choices in those states could be two of the same party or two differing parties. Nine states allow independents to vote in either party primary, and six others have partially open primaries.
Politicians elected in a nonpartisan, top-two system are accountable to all their constituents. No longer would they win election by throwing red meat to an extreme base.
With open primaries, they’re incentivized to be productive and work in partnership with their fellow politicians to fix real problems. Voters get to see more choices and ideas on a primary ballot. The shift focuses from party to the candidates.
That’s what our state so desperately needs: politicians willing to take on and solve our big challenges.
Surely, we’re at the point in Oklahoma when we appreciate that something needs to budge to invigorate our state and motivate voters. It’s time to steer a new course.
Open primaries are simple, fair, nonpartisan and transparent. Write and call your state senator and representative today. We need SB 1754 this year.
(Margaret Kobos is the founder of Oklahoma United for Progress.)
WE DID IT!
THANK YOU, VOTERS
1. Proposition 1 is $166 million and includes more fencing, security cameras, roofing improvements, and maintenance repairs district wide.
2. Proposition 2 is $90 million to upgrade the district's computer software and add interactive white boards to classrooms.
3. Proposition 3 is more than $17 million to replace and repair buses and ensure transportation for students in off-site programs.
4. Proposition 4 is $139 million and focuses on STEM education, buying additional textbooks and upgrading STEM labs. There will be a public oversight committee.
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Oklahoma United for Progress supports public schools.
No Hall Pass on this one.
--Your Friends at OKUnited