Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

A message from Connie Johnson: How to Vote By Mail — and take Oklahoma back

Former state Senator Connie Johnson is an advocate for every progressive cause known, but she has a special calling to increase voter participation, and in particular to increase the use of absentee voting (vote by mail) among Oklahoma Democrats.

Currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor, Connie sent out this letter recently. Whomever you support in that race, Connie’s advocacy for this tool for increasing turnout is a winning ticket!

Most people don’t know that Oklahoma wasn’t always this way — sold out to the highest bidder, dominated by right-wing extremism, and bankrupted by irresponsible, corporatist leadership. At our formation, we were considered one of the most progressive states in the nation. It was only as recently as 2004 that Republicans took a majority in the House, and then, in 2010, snowballed into a supermajority avalanche.

How did this happen? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Among other things, one of the most successful strategies of the Right is that they push hard for their supporters to Vote By Mail. Traditionally speaking, the candidate who wins the absentee vote wins the election.

The advantages are vast, and the implications for the minority voice are profound:

  1. Never miss an election. Every ballot will be delivered straight to your door three (3) weeks prior to each election, large or small, meaning you will have three weeks to vote instead of three days;
  2. Have time to research. No matter the candidate, state question, or bond initiative — whatever appears on your ballot, you’ll have plenty of time to make an informed decision.
  3. Easily notarize. Your local tag agency or financial institution notarizes ballots for free. If you are disabled, or a caregiver to someone who is disabled, your ballot simply has to be witnessed by two people before sending it off.
  4. Throw a ballot party! Various groups, churches or other community organizations can host a ballot party, with notaries present, and everyone can put two first class stamps on their ballots and send them off all at once; and
  5. Still vote in person if you want! You don’t have to use your absentee ballot — but we are asking everyone to please just sign up! The more people who register to vote by mail, the more successful our movement will be.

Sign up to Vote By Mail at okvotebymail.com. It takes less than 5 minutes. Tell your friends and family all of the benefits. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying something new.
The age of reactionary, defensive strategy on the Left is over. It’s time to get proactive.

It’s time to take our state back.

Welcome to the Movement.

Kind regards,
Connie

#RunningForGovernorTogether2018

Reprinted with permission from One World House. `

I have tremendous respect for the three declared Democratic candidates for Governor in Oklahoma: Drew Edmondson, Scott Inman, and Connie Johnson. I wish I could vote for all three of them, and I will definitely be voting for the Democratic nominee for governor.

Given my respect for all three Democratic candidates and my awareness that none of them is what has come to be known as a typical politician, I would like to make a suggestion about how the Democratic Primary Campaign for Governor could be conducted going forward. We need Democrats to be as united as is possible when one of these three candidates wins the primary. They all have tremendous ideas and gifts to share, and I believe all three of them are running for the state, not for themselves.

Therefore, I am asking the three candidates to consider participating together in a series of town hall forums (not so much debates) as an opportunity for all three of them to hash out together the ideas that are needed for our state to move forward for all people. I am confident that these candidates can show the state that the Democratic Party is the party of vision, ideas, and pragmatism to take us in a new direction so desperately needed, and in these forums they could model what good politics is meant to be – the art of developing a good and just society in and through community.

Maybe they could even have a bus tour around the state for these forums – maybe even ride together in the same bus, seriously, working as colleagues together to help each other be the best candidate for governor, whoever may win the primary election. Maybe even have a big watch party together the night of the primary election standing side by side with whomever is given the mantle of moving to the general election and show the people of Oklahoma what politics can be when done by responsible adults. I know, it is unconventional, but I truly hope they will consider it. Our state needs something different. We need these three excellent candidates to model what collegiality and good and decent politics can do for our state. We certainly have seen what the opposite has done to our state and nation.

Boren Plan Deserves Serious Consideration

Finally, a prominent Oklahoma leader has come up with the barebones of what I view as a workable and perhaps revisable plan to help bolster education funding in the state.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren has proposed a ballot initiative to allow voters to raise the state’s sales tax by one cent to help increase Oklahoma’s dismal funding of education.

Boren, according to news reports, said the increase would raise $615 million a year, and that $378 million could be used to give public school teachers a $5,000 raise. Oklahoma has some of the lowest average teacher salaries in the country and currently faces a major teacher shortage because of it. The state also ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil funding.

Boren said the additional money, among other things, would go to fund incentive pay for teachers, an issue pushed by conservatives. Some of the money would also go to higher education to limit tuition increases.

One of the first and somewhat negative reactions to the proposal came from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa progressive think tank, which argues the tax, if voted into law, would hurt lower income people the most because sales taxes, as we all know, are regressive. OKPolicy did note it supported more funding for education overall, but, as usual, it seems to want to have it both ways when it comes to funding education. It’s for it, but, well, there doesn’t seem any way to get it done. Parse through the lines in this final sentence of its statement about the proposal:

Oklahomans urgently need real tax reform to create a tax system that does not put the greatest burden on those who can least afford it and that collects enough to meet critical needs of Oklahoma families — not just for education but also health care, safe communities, and other public services to ensure a stable economy and strong quality of life.

Translation: We’re probably not going to support this proposal and we know there’s not one iota of chance for “real tax reform” right now in our conservative-dominated state government. Also, education is important, but, well, is it AS important as, say, health care?

Watch for OKPolicy and the right-wing Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs to join together again to defeat another education funding proposal if Boren goes forward with it.

It seems to me that one obvious solution to the “regressive issue” when it comes to the sales tax increase would be to make it more progressive by exempting lower-income and middle-class income people from all or some of the “education tax” through income-tax credits or rebates. This might complicate the language on the petition drive to put the measure on the ballot, but at least it’s worth considering.

As it stands now, the state faces what will likely be a $1 billion shortfall next fiscal year, and state agency heads are getting informed that they could face cuts in their budgets. This complicates the ballot initiative even further.

If Boren and any type of coalition he helps to put together go forward with the proposal, those circulating the petition would need to collect 65,987 signatures in a 90-day period for the November 2016 ballot.

Sure, I agree that the tax proposal, as it stands, is regressive, but that can be fixed with credits and rebates in the tax code, and, it’s only ONE CENT. Even if the proposal stands as is, I would support it and urge other voters to do the same. We shouldn’t forget that lower-income people would benefit by better schools. This could enable them to raise their incomes. It goes together.

If this is what it takes to improve education funding, then we need to get behind it. We face a real emergency here when it comes to education funding. Let’s do something about it.