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Editor’s Letter – 10/17/18

Despite finding no evidence of fraud in past elections, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the legislature’s inordinate voter ID law earlier this year. This is one among a suite of similar restrictions passed in state houses across the country since 2010, making voting as hard as bureaucratically possible for the poor and people of color.

The Oklahoma ruling follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing nine (mostly southern) states with histories of voter repression to change their election policies without federal approval. This opened the door for states like Texas to blow the dust off their own shelved anti-voter efforts and carry on with the wind from Washington at their backs.

In June of this year, that same body upheld Ohio’s “use-it-or-lose-it” law, scrubbing voters from rolls if they declined to participate in recent elections without mailing in a special confirmation form. Then, last week, it upheld a suppression measure in North Dakota, making tens of thousands of (mostly Native) voters noncompliant with its unduly rigid street address requirements.

Days ago, the Associated Press reported that “voter roll maintenance” in Georgia wiped more than 1.4 million registrations off the books over the last six years, under the direction of secretary of state and current gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. Now, in the runup to his contest against Rep. Stacey Abrams—who would be the first Black woman governor in U.S. history—more than 53,000 registrations of (mostly Black) voters have been “stalled” due to burdensome technical requirements of the state’s “exact match” voter ID rule.

With scandalously low turnout in U.S. local elections, why are legislatures across the country so determined to put up barriers between people and their ballot box? Proponents say they’re safeguarding against voter fraud—but studies, courts, and government investigations agree that voter fraud is extremely rare. The maneuver of voter suppression is clearly about power: who gets it, and who keeps it.

If you’re one of the lucky ones—those of us with permanent addresses that match state databases, with squeaky-clean rap sheets and secure jobs with accommodating bosses—then, please, snatch your power and vote in the midterm election on Tues., Nov. 6.

This issue features some of the candidates, in their own words, about how the decisions made in their offices will affect your life and the lives of your most vulnerable neighbors—like how gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson would work to expand Medicaid; how Ashley McCray would bring environmental justice to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission; how Blake Shipley would reform Tulsa’s bond system; and how Jenny Proehl-Day would shake up the district attorney’s office. 

For more information, check out the 2018 Oklahoma State Questions and Elections featured report at okpolicy.org.