Voters facing important electoral choices June 30

Robert Smith

With municipal and county elections set for June 30, Pawhuska and Osage County voters have important choices to make.

It is also time to decide if you are comfortable voting in person at your local precinct, or if you think it might be safer to submit an absentee ballot in order to avoid any possible transmission of COVID-19. The Osage County Election Board will be accepting applications for absentee ballots until 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 24. You do not have to state a reason for voting absentee. If you are a registered voter, all you have to do is ask to vote absentee.

Absentee ballots must be returned to the Election Board by 7 p.m. on election day to be counted.

Pawhuska voters will be given the opportunity June 30 to choose between incumbent at-large city councilor Rodger Milleson and challenger Steve Tolson, who garnered the most votes in the primary. Tolson led a four-candidate field on Feb. 11. He receoved 47.89 percent of votes cast, while Milleson had 25.12 percent. The general election for this seat was to have been held in April, but it was postponed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Osage County voters, including those in Pawhuska, will be called on June 30 to help decide other matters, as well.

Republican primary voters will effectively decide who will be sheriff of Osage County for the next four years when they choose June 30 between incumbent Sheriff Eddie Virden and challenger Rocky Davis. Davis and Virden are the only two candidates for county sheriff, so the winner of the primary will face no opposition in November. Because of the way Oklahoma’s electoral system is set up, independent and Democratic voters will be unable to participate in the selection of a sheriff this year in Osage County.

Voters throughout the county, regardless of party affiliation, will be able to make their wishes known June 30 regarding State Question 802, which would mandate the expansion of Medicaid to cover lower-income adults in the state not later than July 1, 2021.

The language of the ballot title for SQ 802 says, in part: “Medicaid is a government-sponsored health insurance program for qualifying low-income persons. This measure would add a provision to the Oklahoma Constitution requiring the state to expand Medicaid coverage. The expanded coverage would include certain persons over 18 and under 65 who are not already covered and whose annual income, as calculated under federal law, is at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. The federal poverty line changes annually, but for example if this measure were in effect in 2019, the measure generally would have covered a single adult making less than $17,236 annually and adults in a family of four making less than $35,535 annually.”

A “yes” vote will be a vote in favor of Medicaid expansion, while a “no” vote will be a vote in opposition to Medicaid expansion.

Voters in Osage County District 2 will be voting June 30 for party nominees for county commissioner. Incumbent District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay, who is being prosecuted in Osage County District Court on a charge of bid rigging, is not seeking re-election, and there are four candidates for that seat — two Democrats and two Republicans.

The Democratic Party candidates include Joe Williams, who is a former Tulsa city councilaman and a retired Oklahoma Natural Gas manager, and Scott Hilton, who served as District 2 commissioner prior to Paslay. The Republican Party candidates include Steve Talburt, an Osage County deputy sheriff, and Tom J. Teel, who formerly worked for District 2. Teel is currently being prosecuted in Osage County District Court on two counts of embezzlement by employee.