America is surging toward the 2020 elections. We should think about voters. Voting is how decision-makers do the will of the majority.
This spring, statewide election officials in Oklahoma City struck 88,000 names from the voter rolls. Oklahoma is a "Use It Or Lose It" state. Voters who lollygag around, missing every election day for eight years in a row, or who fail to reply to an address verification request from the county election board, become inactive and cannot vote without re-registering.
While the number of voters stricken from the voting books was lower in 2019, the actual percentage of stricken inactive voters was higher in 2019 than previously. Striking may be due to duplication, new addresses, voters who have moved out of state or passed away, or simply due to not voting. Infrequent voters should verify their eligibility.
Back when Oklahoma legalized online voter registration in 2015, no one could have imagined that four years later, even those who already had a driver's license would not be able to register online.
Folks who have been waiting to register until they can do so from the convenience of their phones or computers are still waiting. Apparently, state officials cannot verify signatures. Therein lies one problem. Another problem is not everyone who can vote has a driver's license. Voters who have registered in the recent past can update their addresses online if both are in the same county, and-or change their party affiliation online at the state government website, from the convenience of home. Voters 18 or older can register by walking into their election board office in the county seat at any time. If it happens to be close to an election, the voter card won't be processed in time for the upcoming election. Convicted felons must wait until their original sentences have expired.
As of January 2019, there were about 13,000 Democrats and 12,000 other voters in Cherokee County. About a third of registered voters didn't participate in the last presidential election. Donald Trump received 10,000 votes. That's under 40 percent of the Cherokee County's registered voters. Democrats could have handily swung the county for Hillary Clinton. They didn't turn out.
Oklahoma has about 2.1 million voters. It hasn't always been a red state. In 1960, 82 percent of Oklahomans were Democrats. Today, 73 percent of Congressional District 2 voters went for Republican Donald Trump, whereas in the primary, Ted Cruz won among Oklahoma Republicans. Bernie Sanders did likewise among Democrats.
There was once an American Party in Oklahoma with about 5,000 registered voters. It lasted five years, and by 1975, it hadn't just fizzled away. It apparently was forced out by law requiring that a statewide candidate for office from every party must get at least 2.5 percent of the votes at least once about every five years, for that party to remain viable. Use It Or Lose It parties - otherwise, Oklahoma removes the privileges of partydom, and everything goes "independent," which is essentially "everyone else." Since just 2018, independents can vote in Democrat primaries. Independents may not vote in Republican primaries.
In America, we talk bigger than we vote. Of 245.5 million eligible U.S. citizens, 157.6 million report being registered to vote. The U.S. ranked 26th of 32 developed nations studied in voter turnout, despite an 82 percent registration rate for the U.S. as a whole.
Fifty-six percent of eligibles nationwide voted in the last presidential election, but nigh-on a million more Americans claimed they voted in that election, compared to the recorded votes cast. Candidates are proposing a small tax break for those who vote. It isn't a bad idea.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.