2016 Election Issue
It’s everyone’s democratic and civic duty to vote on Nov. 8, and this year’s ballot is an important one. This issue includes stories on Oklahoma’s multiple state questions, the Libertarian party, races to watch, our roundup of uncommon candidates and more. It also features the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma’s 2016 Voters Guide. The election doesn’t have to be scary. Oklahoma Gazette helps you navigate the many elections and issues.
Find more coverage in this week’s print issue, on stands now, and in Oklahoma Gazette’s Nov. 2 print edition.
• 2016 Election: Oklahoma ballot questions explained
• 2016 Election: The Libertarian Party returns to Oklahoma’s ballot after a 16-year absence
• 2016 Election: Metro races to watch
• 2016 Election: Uncommon contenders for state Legislature include millennials, educators, transgender woman
• 2016 Election: Joe Exotic’s White House run just the beginning of his political aspirations, even if he’s not on the ballot in Oklahoma
• 2016 Election: As Election Day approaches, many seek help navigating flack attacks
• Letters to the Editor: Oct. 26, 2016
Oklahomans face seven state questions in the Nov. 8 general election that cover subjects ranging from agriculture and education to the use of public funds for religious purposes.
Voters must decide whether they favor or oppose the policies set forth in the state questions. While that seems straightforward, reading the ballot language can be complicated and confusing. Remember, voting “for the proposal” means you support changing existing law. Voting “against the proposal” means you want to stick with current law or are against a new law.
Oklahoma Gazette distilled this year’s state ballot questions to help everyone understand what their votes “for the proposal” and “against the proposal” actually mean.
SQ 776: Death penalty
Yes: A “yes” vote for State Question 776 supports adding a constitutional amendment to Oklahoma’s Constitutional Bill of Rights, which enumerates the rights of all state residents. The constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to determine methods of execution not expressly outlawed by the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, such as firing squad and electrocution. Additionally, it declares the death penalty shall not be considered cruel or unusual punishment.
No: A vote against State Question 776 keeps the death penalty as a legal option under law, but not written into Oklahoma’s Bill of Rights. House Bill 1879, passed in 2015, already allows for execution methods like firing squad and electrocution.
supporting: Few public groups have officially supported this state question.
opposing: Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Libertarian Party, NAACP Oklahoma City branch, Oklahoma Conference of Churches and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
SQ 777: Agriculture
Yes: Voting “for” State Question 777 supports amending Oklahoma’s Constitution to add “strict scrutiny” rules to protect farming and ranching. Specifically, it would prohibit lawmakers from passing any laws to hinder the advancement of agriculture technology, livestock procedures and ranching practices, except in instances of “compelling state interest.”
No: Voting against the proposal would allow the Legislature and local municipalities the ability to pass laws relating to the regulation of agriculture, including technology, livestock procedures and related ranching practices.
Note: The amendment does not impact trespassing, eminent domain, dominance of mineral interests, easements, right of way and other property rights. Laws passed before Dec. 31, 2014 would be exempt from this amendment.
supporting: Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Pork Council, many other agriculture organizations
opposing: The Oklahoma Stewardship Council, Oklahoma Municipal League, Sierra Club, Humane Society, Save the Illinois River, Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family and others
SQ 779: Education
Yes: A vote for State Question 779 backs amending the Oklahoma Constitution to add a new article to create the Education Improvement Fund. The state sales and use tax would increase by one cent per dollar to provide additional funding to the state’s Department of Education, Regents for Higher Education and Department of Career and Technology Education. From the fund, a $5,000 salary increase will be provided to public school teachers, but funds would not support an increase to superintendent salaries. Specifically, 69.5 percent of funds would be allocated to school districts, 19.25 percent to public colleges and universities, 3.25 percent to CareerTech programs and 8 percent to early childhood education.
No: A vote against SQ 779 is against adding an article to the state constitution outlining the Education Improvement Fund and its ability to raise the state’s sales and use tax by one cent per dollar to help fund three state education agencies.
supporting: Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future; Stand for Children; Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration; Oklahoma State School Boards Association and Oklahoma Education Association
opposing: OCPA Impact, Oklahoma Municipal League and Edmond City Council
State Questions 780 & 781: Law enforcement
Yes on 780: A vote for State Question 780 supports amending state laws to reclassify simple drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors as well as raise the dollar amount that determines whether property crimes are a felonies or misdemeanors from $500 to $1,000. The overarching goal is to reduce prison populations and better address issues related to mental health and substance use.
No on 780: A vote against SQ 780 retains state statutes regarding drug possession and simple property crimes.
Yes on 781: A vote for State Question 781 supports funneling anticipated related SQ 780 cost savings toward counties via the County Community Safety Investment Fund, under which county commissioners would distribute monies to local mental health, job training and addiction recovery services.
No on 781: A vote against SQ 781 eliminates the channeling of savings to a fund intended for community services in all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.
supporting SQ 780 & 781: Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, Right on Crime, Oklahoma Policy Institute, American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Impact
opposing SQ 780 & 781: Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Washburn, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan and Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police
SQ 790: Use of public resources for religious purposes
Yes: A vote for State Question 790 would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to repeal Article 2, Section 5, which prohibits public money or property from benefiting religion or religious groups in any capacity.
No: A vote against SQ 790 supports restricting the use of public money or property to benefit religion or religious groups.
Supporting: Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon; Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman; Rep. Jeffrey W. Hickman, R-Fairview; and Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond
Opposing: American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma
SQ 792: Alcohol
Yes: A vote for State Question 792 supports amending the Oklahoma Constitution to repeal Article 28 (Alcoholic Beverage Laws and Enforcement) and enact Article 28A as outlined in Senate Joint Resolution 68. SQ 792 addresses state liquor sales laws. An individual or corporation could own multiple beer and wine stores but would be limited to two licenses if spirits were sold. If passed, the law would take effect Oct. 1, 2018.
No: A vote against SQ 792 supports current alcohol law, which allows grocery and convenience stores to sell 3.2 beer and liquor stores to sell wine and beer at room temperature. Owners of liquor stores are limited to a single license.
Note: SJR 68 allows grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and high-point beer. Liquor stores could sell refrigerated beer and wine and sell limited grocery items. State residents could place wine shipment orders from wineries up to 30 9-liter cases per year and no more than six 9-liter cases from a single winery.
supporting: Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association, Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, Oklahoma Grocers Association, Homeland, Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven Stores
opposing: Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma
Election Day: What you need to know
• Electoral College: Oklahomans vote for a presidential and vice presidential candidate. On the ballot with each party candidate’s name, you will see seven elector names under these candidates. These are our members of the U.S. Electoral College, which convenes the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to officially cast the state’s votes for president.
• Write-in candidates: Under Oklahoma law, write-in voting is not allowed. Should a voter write a name on a ballot, their vote for that specific race will be invalidated.
• Phones and cheat sheets: There is no law forbidding the use of smartphones to look up information while at the ballot box. Polling places may post signs requesting people turn off phones as to prevent distracting noise. Voters can also bring a cheat sheet for reference when voting.
Pick up Oklahoma Gazette’s Nov. 2 issue for continuing coverage leading into the Nov. 8 election. Also visit okgazette.com for ballot samples, additional voter resources and more information.
Print Headline: Wait, what?, The 2016 Oklahoma ballot questions explained.