In 2020, voting isn’t crystal clear.
Few elections transpire without turmoil. The 2000 presidential election, for example, saw one of the most overt signs of doubt surrounding the country’s process as Al Gore secured the popular vote, but ultimately conceded to President George W. Bush after a recount was forced in Florida. Further doubt was sowed in 2016, as projections saw Hillary Clinton handedly defeating President Donald Trump, only for the latter to win in several presumed blue states. This election is still mired in controversy, as evidence of Russian interference through fraudulent social media activity is still unearthed. This year, Trump has cast further doubt over the election process, suggesting absentee voting is fraught with fraud despite a lack of evidence. This comes as COVID-19 has forced many Americans to reevaluate how they can safely vote on November 3.
Oklahoma City’s ballot is exceptionally important, as it features seven state elections in addition to the presidential, eight justices and judges up for retention, two state questions, and nine propositions for the city’s charter. Many of the state’s races are critical, but the sheer volume can make it difficult to discern what one is actually voting for. Additionally, the nature of the pandemic coupled with a lengthy ballot means many voters may need to spend additional time at the polls if they were unable to apply for an absentee ballot timely. In this way, being an educated voter is synonymous with being a healthy voter.
What follows is an examination of each choice given to voters residing in Oklahoma City.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence (Republican)
The incumbent’s first term has been as historic as it is controversial. Trump’s victory in of itself was considered anomalous by most analysts, but this was quickly overshadowed by the events of his presidency thus far. Trump has presided over some economic gains, though many of those were obliterated by the pandemic. Trump has adopted a platform of “law and order” for his reelection in response to protests for racial justice, but it can be a stretch to take this notion seriously when he and his colleagues have endured impeachment and indictments. In Trump’s context, “law and order” is better translated into “suburban protection.” This goes in part hand-in-hand with Trump’s isolationist tendencies, as well as his stance against immigration that was a hallmark of his election. He is one of the first western leaders to parlay with North Korea, though whether or not this gesture actually deescelated hostilities remains uncertain.
Trump has drawn additional criticism for his response to the pandemic, taking virtually no action to abate the crisis until mid-March despite evidence of briefings on the virus as early as January. His bombastic tweets coupled with aggressive conservatism have made him one the most bilateral candidates. So much so, it’s difficult to determine whether or not his own vice president, Mike Pence, has been able to lead effectively.
- Phil Danner
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Democrat)
Former vice president Joe Biden emerged as somewhat of a sleeper nominee among a fiercely contested democratic primary including the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Biden was perhaps the most centrist of hopefuls despite a present republican effort to paint him as radically liberal. Contrary to Trump, Biden has secured the support of older democrats and minorities. However, his involvement with the 1994 Crime Bill has alienated many voters as the bill disproportionately punished black Americans.
For his platform, Biden supports mild criminal justice reform; a rekindled focus on environmental protection and carbon reduction; and a safe, nationwide strategy to recover from the pandemic. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, previously served as the attorney general of California. Similar to Biden, Harris has been criticized for a lack of meaningful criminal justice reform. If victorious, she would become the first woman to hold the office of vice president.
Jo Jorgenson and Jeremy Spike Cohen (Libertarian)
Jo Jorgensen is the most popular, atypical candidate. She previously ran as a vice presidential candidate in 1996 in a losing effort to the incumbent, Bill Clinton. Like most libertarians, Jorgenson prioritizes a free market and a reduction to the national deficit. She has also commented on the need for health care reform in terms of cost, but does not support universal healthcare in any capacity. In response to a Ballotpedia survey, Jorgenson envisions her America as “One giant Switzerland.”
Jade Simmons and Claudeliah J. Roze (Independent)
A write-in candidate in most states, Jade Simmons summarizes her platform with “Operation Restoration,” a multi-faceted effort to dismantle party politics. Unfortunately, the platform offers little substance or mechanisms for unwinding partisanism. Much like the next candidate, her ideas often become dogmatic without arriving at any meaningful conclusion.
Kanye West and Michelle Tidball (Independent)
An award-winning rapper, producer, and designer, Kanye West formerly announced his campaign on July 4, 2020. That announcement is about the extent of what is known about West’s campaign. Of the few platforms outlined on his campaign’s website, freedom of religion takes the highest priority. This is perhaps reiterated with the selection of his running mate, Wyoming-based preacher Michelle Tidball. In an 2018 interview with CNN, West described his at the time hypothetical platform as very similar to “Trump but with some of Bernie’s principles.”
- Phil Danner
Brock Pierce and Karla Ballard (Independent)
In 1996, Brock Pierce starred in First Kid as the mischievous son of a fictional president. Over twenty years later, Pierce has become a billionaire largely from his involvement in the cryptocurrency trade. Pierce prioritizes a free market while also making motions towards sustainable industry in order to mitigate the consequences of climate change.
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner (Battle of the Todds)
Todd Hiett (Republican)
The incumbent Todd Hiett won his office in 2015. Previously, Hiett was the state’s Speaker of the House from 2004 to 2006. Across his career, Hiett’s campaign suggests his relationship with entities like Webco Industries and Callidus Technologies lend to an expansion of available jobs in the state. Hiett is criticized by his challenger for breaking campaign rules by using unspent funds to pay for a new office. Hiett argues that this is not a misuse of funds, as the office is necessary for him to perform the duties of his position.
Todd Hagopian (Libertarian)
Like most libertarians, Todd Hagopian’s platform is rooted in limiting government regulation. Hagopian also champions a reevaluation of how the state’s taxes are used, a notion that coincides with his criticism of Hiett’s spending.
Jim Inhofe (Republican)
Jim Inhofe has held his senate seat since 1995. A career politician, Inhofe has served in the state’s senate as well as in the federal and state house of representatives. Recently, Inhofe endured criticism spurred by a New York Times article that alleged he, along with several other republican senators, sold an excessive amount of stock following a senate intelligence briefing in January. This allegedly occurred two months before the pandemic would eviscerate the stock market. In the meantime, Inhofe has downplayed the severity of the virus in tandem with the president. He also once brought a snowball to the senate floor in an attempt to disprove climate change.
- Phil Danner
Abby Broyles (Democrat)
Abby Broyles is an active attorney and journalist who has made a career out of her ability to identify and examine corruption. Broyles feels partisanship has grounded the legislature to a halt. She is a proponent of effective and accessible healthcare. Broyles also feels there must be a national effort to mitigate the effects of climate change, as it directly impacts Oklahoman agriculture.
Robert Murphy (Libertarian)
Robert Murphy is a veteran seeking to “reign in our banking system and return to stable money based on silver and gold.” Similar to Trump, Murphy supports an isolationist America. Murphy also endorses a free market for medical care and seeks to end the monopolistic practices in medical care and drug manufacturing.
Joan Farr (Independent)
Joan Farr is an independent that previously ran in a losing effort to Inhofe in 2014. Farr has been open about her intent to change her political affiliation to Republican if elected. Many of her platforms parallel Inhofe, with a strong emphasis on the supposed need for conservative justices in order to expand the number of heard cases.
- Phil Danner
A.D. Nesbit (Independent)
A.D. Nesbit is an assistant professor at East Central University. Nesbit takes a strong stance against partisan politics, and admits that no politician can effectively lead without the advice of experts. Nesbit prioritizes the accessibility of education and healthcare.
U.S. Representative, District 05
Kendra S. Horn (Democrat)
Kendra Horn won her seat in a monumental victory over Steve Russell in 2018. Horn feels that unemployment benefits and protections for small businesses should be expanded, as the pandemic has proven the fragility of our current safety nets. Education, healthcare and infrastructure are at the heart of her platform. In 2019, Horn voted alongside her democratic colleagues to impeach Trump. She differs from many democrats, however, in her opposition to fracking bans.
- Phil Danner
Stephanie Bice (Republican)
Stephanie Bice has been an Oklahoman senator since 2014. Her policies parallel the president, with a specific focus on developing better border security and limiting immigration into the U.S. Bice seeks to expand the size of Oklahoma’s workforce through greater access to vocational training. She is also a supporter of firearm ownership and opposes abortion at any stage.
State Representative, District 87
- Phil Danner
Collin Walke (Democrat)
An incumbent since his election in 2016, Collin Walke has focused much of his tenure on uplifting the working class. He supported OK House Bill 2272, which expanded retirement benefits for thousands of state works. Walke has also prioritized the health of Oklahoma City’s economy and school system, feeling that small businesses are especially vulnerable and are in need of additional protection.
Valerie Walker (Republican)
Valerie Walker is a conservative whose policies closely mirror the president. Walker is a proponent of firearm ownership and feels the function of law enforcement should be maintained if not expanded. Walker also opposes abortion in any capacity.
- Phil Danner
David B. Hooten (Republican)
David Hooten is the conservative incumbent building his platform around the accessibility of the state’s service. During his tenure, Hooten pushed for live streaming county meetings and the translation of online documents and forms into languages including Spanish, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
- Phil Danner
Christina Mallory Chicoraske (Democrat)
Christina Chicoraske is an Oklahoma City native concerned with involving residents in local politics. Similar to Hooten, Chicoraske is a proponent of accessible information. She also champions transparent budget practices.
Tommie Johnson III (Republican)
Tommie Johnson previously served as a master police officer of the Norman Police Department. Johnson’s platform involves considerate policing and financial responsibility. He also feels a strong connection to the community is critical for criminal justice reform.
- Phil Danner
Wayland Cubit (Democrat)
Wayland Cubit feels any sheriff must ensure policing is transparent and accountable. Cubit’s platform includes the expansion of mental health services, mitigating police intervention in a time of crisis. Cubit feels justice should be sensible and actively seek to rehabilitate, rather than hold the state’s incarcerated population indefinitely.
County Court Clerk
Rick Warren (Republican)
Rick Warren is the incumbent seeking his second term on the heels of a special election. Warren’s platform focuses on clerical efficiency and fiscal accountability. He has been criticised by his opponent for his vote that contributed to sending the majority of $40 million awarded to Oklahoma via the CAREs Act to the state’s jails.
- Phil Danner
Charles De Coune (Democrat)
Charles De Coune previously ran as an independent for Oklahoma Treasurer in 2018, but was defeated by Randy McDaniel. De Coune has criticised the incumbent for his misuse of CAREs Act funding. De Coune’s platform centers on affordable access to justice and broad criminal justice reform.
Matthew John Kane IV (Supreme Court District 1)
Matthew John Kane was appointed by Governor Kevin Stitt in 2019 following the retirement of Justice John Reif last April. Previously, Kane served as a judge of Oklahoma’s 10th District Court for nearly 15 years.
Tom Colbert (Supreme Court District 6)
Tom Colbert was appointed by Governor Brad Henry in 2004. He is the first black justice to sit on Oklahoma’s Supreme Court. Across Colbert’s career, he has focused on the fair treatment of black Americans who are disproportionately hurt by the justice system.
Richard B. Darby (Supreme Court District 9)
Richard Darby was appointed by Governor Mary Fallin in 2018. Recently, Darby supported eliminating the previous notary requirement of absentee ballots. He served as the district judge of the state’s 3rd Judicial District for over twenty years before his appointment to the supreme court.
Gary L. Lumpkin (Court of Criminal Appeals, District 3)
Gary Lumpkin was appointed by Governor Henry Bellmon in 1988. Lumpkin was criticised in 2017 for his use of the n-word when reading a transcript of a defendant’s repeated use of the slur. Though no officials decried Lumpkin as overtly racist over the incident, Judge David Lewis indicated his repeated use of the slur was understandably tone deaf.
Jane P. Wiseman (Court of Civil Appeals, District 1 - Office 2)
Jane Wiseman was appointed by Governor Brad Henry in 2005. Prior to her appointment, Wiseman served in the 14th District in the Family Relations and Civil divisions.
- Phil Danner
Deborah B. Barnes (Court of Civil Appeals, District 2 - Office 1)
Deborah Barnes was appointed by Governor Brad Henry in 2008. She was previously the staff attorney to Supreme Court Justice Ralph Hodges. Barnes’s experience is rooted in civil litigation and commercial law.
Keith Rapp (Court of Civil Appeals District 2 - Office 2)
Keith Rapp was appointed by Governor George Nigh in 1984. He served as a judge in the 14th District Court prior to his appointment, and was a public defender and prosecutor in Broken Arrow during his pre-judicial career.
State Question No. 805
This state question is intended to eliminate enhanced sentencing for non-violent felony convictions. Currently, sentence enhancement can be used against any individual convicted of a crime within 10 years of completing their last sentence. Voting yes would support eliminating this option. Supporters of this question feel the measure could drastically decrease the state’s already congested prison populations and mitigate harsh sentencing. Governor Kevin Stitt is among the opponents of this measure, as they feel eliminating sentence enhancement would allow criminals to avoid accountability.
State Question No. 814
This state question relates to the use of funds awarded to the state by Tobacco companies as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. Voting yes would support decreasing the percentage of funds currently placed in the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust from 75% to 25%, redirecting the freed up funds to the state legislature. Supporters of this measure find these funds could be better used to support the state’s Medicaid program. Opponents, including the American Cancer Society, feel that this measure relies on a hope that lawmakers will allocate this funding appropriately.
Propositions (Modifications to Oklahoma City’s Charter)
This charter amendment is modification to the language used in reference to mayoral and city elections as well the pace in which new appointments transpire. This would include renaming February’s “primary” election to “general,” and April’s election from “general” to “runoff.” This amendment also specifies that elected officials would assume office four weeks after the “runoff,” rather than the current one week. The language revision would allow the charter to better reflect current state law, which already supersedes the charter.
This charter amendment eases the restrictions for mayoral candidacy. Currently, any individual running for mayor must reside in OKC for at least three years. This would reduce the requirement to a single year, while still requiring a candidate to be a registered voter for at least a year in their applicable ward.
This charter amendment would extend the period to call for a special election from 15 days to 30 days.
This charter amendment will rewrite the requirement for city council meetings to reflect the council’s current behavior of setting meetings by ordinance. Currently, the city council meets every other Tuesday.
This charter amendment would allow the mayor and city council members to provide positive and negative feedback for any city employee directly to the City Manager. This amendment could both expedite termination of an employee as well as their promotion.
This charter amendment is designed to clarify who composes the city’s Division of Public Affairs. This change would formalize the inclusion of the City Manager, Municipal Counselor, City Auditor, Municipal Court Judges, and all of OKC’s boards, commissions and committees that were created by the mayor and city council.
This charter amendment is aimed at inclusion, revising the term “councilman” to “council member” or “councilor.”
This charter amendment is largely focused on reformatting the charter for accessibility. This amendment would also add the word “welfare” to the list of powers related to ordinances.
This charter amendment would rephrase a heading of the charter to better prevent exploitative transactions related to certain business within OKC and stave possible corruption. This would prevent city employees and elected officials from accepting gifts whose value are deemed unavailable to the general public, as they may come from privately-owned entities. It would still allow for contracts to be conditioned upon free access for city employees and officers while performing official duties.