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Voter Turnout can Double

November 28, 2014

VOTER TURNOUT CAN DOUBLE IF WE CHANGE OUR WAYS!
Voter turnout in Oklahoma should be a major subject of discussion at all levels of current politics. With a November 4th turnout of approximately 41% of registered voters casting ballots, one is led to surmise that apathy and roadblocks to voting are contributing factors.
For citizens of Oklahoma to get an initiative placed on the ballot ,too many signatures are required. The required number cannot be gathered in the short time span of 90 days! Because of this inequity, the current signature portion of the initiative process needs to be redesigned due to low voter turnout. Estimates indicate that there will be a 20% reduction in the number of signatures required in 2016. Now, that will provide us with the glimmer of a chance to place before the voters a State Question (Amendment to the State’s Constitution) so that ruling parties in future legislatures cannot keep Oklahoman’s voices from being heard.
A loosening of the initiative process will provide the opportunity for contentious issues to be decided by the voters, not by a “gerrymandered” legislature. “Gerrymandering” has been a political ploy since 1812 by the process of redrawing legislative districts to favor the party in power.; and to no one’s credit, it has been used by both Republicans and Democrats. It is ironic that the term is tied to a Republican-Democrat Governor of Massachusetts.
Simplifying the handling of absentee ballots, to make it more voter friendly, would be a step in the right direction. People who vote by absentee ballot are not always able to sign their ballot in the presence of a Notary Public. Though Oklahoma’s voter laws prohibit a Notary Public from charging a fee, this does little to help the individual who cannot leave his/her home due to physical problems or who lives in an area where there is no Notary available. A signed absentee ballot which can be compared to the signor’s name and checked off on the Oklahoma voting register should be sufficient.
More information about candidates and issues appearing on a ballot needs to be widely disseminated to the voting public. There is very limited progressive news and/or ideas published in our newspapers or broadcast over the airwaves. Oklahoma needs a non-partisan organization, with national recognition – capable and willing to collect information pro and con – on each candidate and issue, and publish a pamphlet. The pamphlet should then be approved by Oklahoma’s Secretary of State and mailed to every voter. To collect and publish the subject pamphlet, the Oklahoma League of Women Voters comes readily to mind.
Another method to greatly enhance voter turnout, particularly in mid-term elections, is to hold open primaries. This will require changing the Democratic Party’s Constitution and By-Laws. Offering a person from another political party the privilege to vote in an open primary will not affect the outcome of the general election. Choice is what drives Democracy. The voice of ANY political party should be heard at the ballot box!
There were too many uncontested positions on the Democrats’ side of the ballots in 2014. This applies to all but a few of the statewide offices. That was another reason for low Democratic voter turnout. As forecasted by Kate Carlton Greer of KGOU, “On voting day, only half of registered voters will choose state senators and one-third will cast ballots for house representatives.” All other candidates were chosen when the period for filing as a candidate for an open position was closed in April of this year.
In summation, lack of a robust Democratic Party, along with unreal costs of a campaign and the strangle hold on districts by controlling parties via gerrymandering, causes voters to feel disenfranchised. “Voting may be a cherished democratic right, but this month’s elections make clear that when they’re not offered much of a choice, few Okalhomans will even bother to show up”, (D. Blatt, Ex. Director, OPI).

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