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It’s election day. Please vote.

Oklahoma Democrats, in particular, need a strong turnout to win the governor’s race and other state races if recent polls and political predictions are anywhere close to valid this year. But it’s also important to retain safe Democratic Senate and House seats, such as those held by state Sen. Andrew Rice and state Rep. Al McAffrey in Oklahoma City.

One the major reasons—and it’s just one—to vote for Lt. Gov. Jari Askins for governor is that as a Democrat she will bring balance to state government, which some are predicting will be dominated by Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Think about Gov. Brad Henry’s vetoes, and how he was able to stop some of the most radical GOP-proposed legislation in recent years. Askins would do the same. It’s doubtful U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, if elected, would oppose the extreme elements of her party’s agenda. Why even take the chance? Let’s have some balance.

The ballot this year is filled with state questions. The most important is State Question 744, a measure that would bring educational funding in Oklahoma up to the regional average. I’ve supported this measure, and I urge people not to buy into scare tactics of those organized interests who oppose SQ 744. The state government will not shut down if SQ 744 passes. Life will go on, even if there’s a budget crisis, and we will, finally, have adequately funded schools. Here’s an op-ed piece I published in the Tulsa World about the ballot initiative.

Here’s a great breakdown of all the state questions that recently appeared in The Oklahoma Gazette.

Finally, many GOP candidates here—including Fallin—ran against President Barack Obama’s policies more than they did on any specific issues in Oklahoma. This may well be a short-term winning strategy, and that’s just politics. But keep in mind, the president could easily rebound in popularity across the country as the economy improves over the next two years, and the anti-Obama hysteria here will seem even more off-key than it is now.


Vote For Convenience: No On SQ 746

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One reason to vote against State Question 746, which would require voters to present photo identification or a voting card, is pretty straightforward: It would slow down the voting process.

Let’s leave the issue of bigotry aside for a moment—some political observers say voter identification rules affect minority groups and senior citizens the most—and focus on the pragmatic. Do we really want slower voting lines as poll workers check ids? Think about this: Person after person handing over their identifications, waiting for verification and then returning their identification to their wallets and purses.

Meanwhile, there are sure to be some people without the appropriate identification, no matter what their ethnicity or age, who will then have to cast a provisional ballot, which will require they sign a sworn statement. How much more time will that take?

Sure, each transaction may take a just a minute or so, but those minutes can add up in a long line.

Will some people be intimidated or confused by the new rules and not vote at all? The League of Women Voters and the American Association of Retired People argue that 78,000 Oklahomans could be affected by the new rules.

There are no credible reports of widespread voter fraud in the state. The voter-fraud issue is one of those phantom paranoias the GOP uses to scare people. Those people across the country who push voter id laws know about the concerns that they could adversely affect minority groups and older people. They have to know that voter id rules are based on a problem that doesn’t exist. In 2009, Gov. Brad Henry argued, and rightfully so, the election process here “has operated without a taint of voter fraud.”

Oklahoma and the country in general should be making it easier to vote, not making it more of a hassle for just about everyone. For the sake of convenience, voters should reject SQ 746.


Polling Narratives

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Republican operatives here and across the country are using polling numbers to create the story of an upcoming GOP landslide in Tuesday’s election, gloating and swaggering about the upcoming Democratic doomsday.

The celebrations seem to have already begun for Republicans.

It’s a story that can be self-fulfilling if Democrats don’t show up to vote Tuesday because they’re discouraged or they think their votes won’t matter. This is how the GOP wants it, but it only happens if Democrats buy into the narrative.

It’s important to remember polls have been notoriously wrong in recent years. Two examples, one nationally, one locally, come to mind.

In 2004, after the Democratic convention, polls showed John Kerry with as high as a 6 percent lead over George Bush in the presidential race. We know how that race turned out. Bush won the popular vote by 2.5 percent despite predictions that Kerry would win.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, pictured right, in her recent run against Attorney General Drew Edmondson in the Democratic gubernatorial primary had to deal with media fallout after a poll showed her behind by a 16 percent margin right before the election. We know how that race turned out, too. Askins won.

Here’s a study that shows how some polls were fundamentally inaccurate during the California recall election. It’s not reassuring that two of the most inaccurate pollsters were Time/CNN and Gallup, according to the study.

So why do polling operations continue to produce so much inaccurate information?

Political polling in recent years has become a part of the overall problem with our broken political system. A poll creates a narrative, and sometimes it’s a narrative of wishful thinking, not reality. Couple this with the failure of the mainstream media to vet polling companies or hold them accountable, and what you get, at best, is something less than reliable or, at worst, a complete fiction helping a particular campaign. Media companies and polling operations have a symbiotic relationship that is more often based on the profit motive rather than accuracy.

There remain many questions. How transparent are polling operations? What about the growing number of household without landline telephones? Are cell phones getting called? Are there records that prove this? What about people with cell phones that have area code numbers that don’t correspond to the place in which live? How do “landslide” polls affect voter turnout?

All this leads us to recent poll numbers that show Askins is trailing U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin in the governor's race by 18 and 19 percent. Askin’s campaign, of course, has pointed to the previous poll numbers that were wrong and rightfully so.

But I think it’s also fundamentally unfair for the local media, without more qualification or without more verification, to report these poll numbers just few days before the election. It can discourage people from participating in the political process, and it cuts both ways with Democrats and Republicans in any given election year.