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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

June 5, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Muskogee Phoenix. June 3, 2018:

— Enjoy summer break

Summer break for many students will be a little shorter this year because of a teacher walkout this spring.

But it will be no less enjoyable for parents and children.

Children may have a little less structure, but they will fill that time with the kind of energy and fun that we remember from our past.

Remember that for the two-months-plus there will be more children playing outside during what would normally be school hours.

We ask that you pay greater attention while you are driving.

We encourage parents to enroll their children in some of the many summer programs offered throughout our community.

The programs will give youth the opportunity to learn while having fun.

We encourage parents to continue their children’s education during the summer months, too.

For some it will mean a summer program. For some of our younger students, summer is a good opportunity to read to their parents.

We encourage students to read while on break.

Find books about your favorite hobby or your favorite person. Enjoy books that take you to a faraway land.

Enjoy your time off because it will end soon enough.

Family and children can make memories that will last a lifetime this summer.

Take care.

Enjoy yourself.

___

Tulsa World. June 5, 2018.

— Matt Pinnell is a promising young leader who deserves the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor

Oklahoma could use more young politicians like Matt Pinnell.

Pinnell, 38, is a charismatic young leader and entrepreneur from Tulsa who is committed to public service, loves his native state and wants to make it a better place to live.

The Republican Party has two other strong candidates for lieutenant governor, which is a bit surprising since it’s a position with little responsibility outside of those assigned by the governor, rarely controversial jobs promoting tourism and executive leadership when the governor is gone.

Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy is smart and brings diverse experience to the table. Her time in office has shown that she is able to understand complex issues and get along with challenging conditions.

State Sen. Eddie Fields beats the field in real political experience and know-how. If public policy issues of current interest — education funding and taxation — were the only factors, he would get our nod.

But Pinnell brings more to the table than either of his opponents: leadership and the potential to take the state in new, better directions.

A genuine and practical conservative, Pinnell’s experience as Oklahoma Republican Party chairman (where he rescued the state party from doctrinaire irrelevance) and as the national Republican Party’s liaison to state parties under the mentorship of Reince Preibus taught him the need for big-tent thinking: reaching out to build working coalitions to achieve what needs to be done.

It also gave him skills in ground-game politics: the ability to organize, concentrate on critical issues and make people want to follow his leadership.

In the end, the lieutenant governor’s post isn’t terribly important outside of its role as a staging ground for political careers. Three of the past four lieutenant governors have gone on to be their party’s nominees for governor and the fourth is a leading candidate to do so this year.

We think Pinnell is a promising young leader for Oklahoma who we can well imagine in more responsible positions in the future.

___

The Oklahoman. June 5, 2018.

— Independent turnout, impact, bear watching in Oklahoma

Since January, the number of Oklahomans registered to vote as independents has surged. Increased registration is an encouraging sign of greater civic engagement, but what the growth of independents signifies and whether it signals a change in voter attitudes remain to be seen.

According to the Oklahoma Election Board, 45,191 new voters have registered since Jan. 15. Nearly 31 percent of those registered as independents, slightly more than double the overall proportion of registered independents in Oklahoma. In contrast, the share of new voters identifying as Republicans or Democrats was below each party’s share of the overall electorate.

One possible explanation for the surge in independent voters is that many Oklahomans are dissatisfied with both parties in light of the dysfunction and governance seen in recent sessions of the Legislature.

Another factor may be the June 26 election on legalization of “medical” marijuana. Some theorize many people registering as independents are pro-marijuana but otherwise generally disinterested in politics.

Typically, registered independents are less motivated than other voters. In 2014, just 19 percent of independents voted in statewide races that included a gubernatorial contest. In comparison, nearly 48 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats turned out that year. In the 2016 presidential race, just under half of registered independents turned out, and in that year’s primaries just 4 percent of registered independents showed up.

Also, many people who register as independents do so simply because of the 1993 federal “motor voter” law, which requires states to provide voter registration opportunity whenever citizens renew driver’s licenses.

Prior to 1993, Oklahomans would typically fill out a registration card and hand it to a registrar (who was often affiliated with a major political party). Those leaving party affiliation blank were usually prompted to check a party preference. Under the “motor voter” law, those leaving party affiliation blank are designated as “independent” by default. This results in growing numbers of registered independents who seldom if ever show up at the polls.

Yet there’s reason to think this year’s elections could see higher turnout from independents. As noted, the marijuana question could fuel turnout in June’s primary, and Democrats have opened their primaries to registered independents. (Those wishing to vote in Republican primaries must be registered Republicans.)

The Democratic gubernatorial primary includes two candidates: former Attorney General Drew Edmondson and former state Sen. Connie Johnson. Edmondson is the better-known and better-funded of the two. But Johnson has long been an advocate for marijuana legalization. (Edmondson supports medical marijuana, but is less supportive of legalized recreational use.)

Should Johnson exceed expectations in the Democratic primary, that could signal the impact of the new registered independents, as in 2016 when independents were partially credited with helping Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont win Oklahoma’s Democratic presidential primary.

For the most part, independents have been largely inconsequential in Oklahoma elections. Before this month is over, we’ll know if that is starting to change.

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