We Oklahoma voters are facing a record number of state questions on the November 2010 ballot. Most of them are courtesy of the Republican-controlled state legislature and understandably reflect its agenda, with only one coming from a citizens’ petition. Here is a link to the ballot language for each question.
Below is my personal take on each question. Don’t bother to argue with me, I’m just sharing how I’ll vote and why, in case you are interested. Bear in mind that I’m a socially liberal Democratic secular humanist. So I’m hardly the typical Oklahoma voter these days.
You should make up your own mind, and more power to you. And remember the old adage on any state question: when in doubt, vote NO.
744: Education Funding – Optimists should vote YES, but pessimists should vote NO
This one failed with 81% voting NO
This one requires that common school funding be raised to the regional average over the next three years and then remain there. The latest census bureau data [see tables 11 and 12 in that document] shows that Oklahoma’s per pupil funding in 2007-2008 was 46th out of the 50 states, although that rose to 32nd out of the 50 states when they ranked the amounts on a personal income basis. (And I refuse to include the District of Columbia in my state statistics, thank you very much.)
As an Oklahoma public school teacher I know all too well how underfunded we are and how our poor salaries and increasingly difficult teaching conditions make it very hard to attract and retain quality teachers. So if this passes our schools would finally, incredibly, be properly funded. What a remarkable achievement! That’s why I’ll vote YES.
But the big problem with State Question 744 is that it doesn’t identify a funding source for this laudable initiative to properly fund our schools. The legislature could do the logical thing and revoke untold millions in tax breaks they’ve given special interests over the years. But no one seriously expects them to do that. Instead they would likely gut state services. So if you’re worried about the fiscal crisis this initiative will cause and how the legislature would resolve it, you’ll be voting NO.
746: Voter ID – Vote NO
This one passed with 74% voting YES
This one says you have to have a photo ID to cast a vote. The excuse is that it would help prevent voting fraud. The reality is that we have no documented cases of voter fraud and this is just a way for the Republican-controlled legislature to suppress the votes of the poor, minorities, and the elderly. Those groups would have the most trouble with a photo ID system and just so happen to often vote Democratic. Who needs more hassles and delays at the polls? Nobody does. Vote NO.
747: More Term Limits – Vote NO
This one passed with 70% voting YES
This puts eight-to-twelve year term limits on the remaining statewide offices. If someone deserves to be kicked out of office, then vote them out. We don’t need a stupid law that throws out the good with the bad. We’ve already dumbed down the legislature (which was pretty hard to do if you think about it) by having term limits there, thus giving lobbyists that much more influence. I have never supported term limits for any office, and I certainly don’t want to see them expanded.
748: Legislative Apportionment – Vote YES
This one passed with 58% voting YES
In a time-honored tradition, the legislature will once again gerrymander the electoral districts using the 2010 census data to help protect incumbents and promote the party that is currently in power. But if those very well paid professionals can’t manage that task, it currently falls to the state superintendent, state treasurer, and state attorney general. The Republicans are worried since those offices happen to be filled with Democrats at this time, so they want to make the commission more bipartisan. Their solution is far from perfect, but is probably better in the long run than what we now have in place.
750: Easier Initiative Petitions – Vote NO
This one barely passed with 50% voting YES (485,637 yes to 477,988 no)
This would make initiative petitions for statewide questions easier, since it would base the number of required signatures on the voter turnout in gubernatorial years, which have lower turnout, rather than on both presidential and gubernatorial elections. I find many initiative petitions are of dubious quality, so why make it easier? Leave it alone.
751: English Language for State “Actions” – Vote NO
This one passed with 76% voting YES
This would allow the legislature to define what is a state “action” is and then require that such actions be conducted in English or Native American languages. Note the absence of Spanish? We are a country of immigrants (even the Native Americans are not native if you go back 11,000 years or so), and we already know that the children of immigrants inevitably become English-speaking Americans. So this is little more than a racist anti-immigrant effort which is both silly and counterproductive.
752: Judicial Nominating Commission – Vote NO
This one passed with 63% voting YES
This just throws two more members, selected by the Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tempore, to a 13-member commission that seems to be working fine already. Leave it alone.
754: Ban Questions Like 744 For All Time – Vote NO
This one failed with 63% voting NO
This is an absurd effort to ban any future state questions like the above 744 and includes blatantly unconstitutional language making it impossible to ever repeal this new language. Er, you can’t make a constitutional amendment that cannot be repealed, folks. The lawyers in the legislature know that, but they still excreted this bit of manure for us to whiff at the polls.
755: No Islamic Laws for Us – Vote NO
This one passed with 70% voting YES
Here’s another racist and absurd one, even worse than 751. It forbids state courts from using international or Sharia (Islamic) laws. Are we really worried that Oklahoma courts are going to rely on international or, even more ridiculous, Islamic holy law? Why doesn’t it specify that they ignore the Ten Commandments as well? Those came out of the Middle East, ya know.
756: Ignore Federal Health Care Law – Vote NO
This one passed with 65% voting YES
The ballot language itself points out that this law has no validity when it tries to have us ignore various aspects of the new federal health care law. You see, that happens to be a violation of the United States Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Perhaps the legislature would like to add the U.S. Constitution to question 755 as another thing our courts should ignore, but that ain’t gonna happen. When legislators have so little respect for our Constitution, is it any wonder that we have so little respect for them?
757: Increase Rainy Day Fund to 15% – Vote YES
This one barely passed with 51% voting YES
This increases the state’s contribution to its “rainy day fund” from 10% to 15% of the previous year’s general fund revenues. Given our boom-and-bust energy-based economy, that’s a darn good idea.