ELECTION UPDATE: Registration deadline Friday for voting in November 8 election

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Friday will be the last day voters can register for the Nov. 8 General Election, Osage County Election Board Secretary Andrea Conner said.

Oklahoma Voter Registration Application forms can be picked up and filled out at the Osage County Election Board Office, 630 Kihekah Ave. Registration forms also are available at the post office, tag agencies and library.

Forms can als be downloaded from the State Election Board website, although the completed form will need to be mailed or delivered to the election board.

Conner said that persons who are United States citizens, residents of Oklahoma, and at least 18 years old may apply to become registered voters.

ELECTION INFO

A democracy puts the voters in charge every Election Day.

In addition to the direct enactment—or rejection—of proposed new laws and constitutional amendments, decisions made by a majority of voters result in a fresh mandate to the representatives elected.

No one’s vote weighs any more than the next person’s, or any less. It’s a collective reset button, and everybody who casts a ballot gets to punch it.

Regrettably, too many Oklahomans have been leaving it up to others. Voter turnout has declined significantly in recent years. Only 34.2 percent of the state’s registered voters took part in the 2014 gubernatorial election, the lowest percentage since 1962. (Oklahoma didn’t begin tracking statewide voter registration totals until 1960.)

Participants in a recent national survey cited numerous reasons for not voting — including dislike of candidates, a general lack of interest, and a belief their vote doesn’t matter. But the most common explanation was that they considered themselves too busy or had time conflicts.

Too busy for democracy? Too uninterested to take part? Maybe it’s time to reconsider.

State voters showed more enthusiasm a century ago. In Oklahoma’s first election, held two months before statehood took effect in 1907, about 18 percent of the state’s population cast ballots. At the time, only men over the age of 21 could vote. In 2014, when women and men over the age of 18 could cast ballots, only 34.2 percent of the state’s citizen population did so.

Oklahoma women won the right to vote in 1918, two years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Eighteen-year-olds received the right to vote in 1971. If participation had kept pace with eligibility, the participation rate should have doubled.

Each Oklahoman’s 2016 general election ballot will include federal, state, and local elections. This is a presidential election year. One US Senate seat will be decided, along with all four US House delegates.

Votes will be cast in many Oklahoma Senate and House districts. Voters will decide whether to retain two Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, and several judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeals. The governor’s office and most other statewide elected positions will not appear on the ballot until 2018.

Voter turnout is typically higher in presidential election years. It also tends to be higher in years when more incumbents have opponents, which is the case this year.

Another draw is the presence of seven state questions on the ballot. They address a range of issues: death-penalty execution methods, agriculture, education funding, law enforcement (two questions), public spending for religious purposes, and the overhaul of our state alcohol laws.

Democracy isn’t perfect. Voters sometimes lament the choices they make. But at least they earned the right to feel regret. One of the better arguments for taking part in the process of democracy is self-protection:

“Elections belong to the people,” Abraham Lincoln reportedly said. “It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Q: WHICH RACES WILL APPEAR ON BALLOTS ACROSS THE STATE?

A: The U.S. Presidency. One U.S. Senate seat, four U.S. House seats, and seven state questions. Many seats in the Oklahoma Senate and Oklahoma House of Representatives. Retention votes for seven members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Court of Civil Appeals. At the county level, many court clerks, county clerks, county sheriffs and county commissioners. In some locations, municipal officials and local bond issues.