Making Democracy Work

LWVOK News July 2014 to June 2015

League News 2014 & 2015

2014 - 2015 LWVOK News

Busy 2014 Election Season for Oklahoma Leagues

All of the local Leagues in Oklahoma did outstanding work this election season.

Bartlesville League Candidate Forum

Volunteers registered voters, set up numerous candidate forums, provided both online and printed voter guides and did whatever was needed to make sure voters had what they needed to go vote on election day.

Preparing for the Gubernatorial Debate at OSU Stillwater

Leagues registered hundreds of voters and helped them find their polling places. Volunteers answered questions about early voting, absentee voting, and which candidates and state questions would be on the ballot.

The state League entered information about all statewide races on Vote411 to provide voters throughout the state with online election information. Several local Leagues provided printed voter guides in addition to promoting Vote411 to local voters.

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma was a sponsoring partner with OETA (the Oklahoma Television Authority) and Oklahoma State University to present three televised debates this year. Two of the debates were broadcast statewide by OETA. The gubernatorial debate — the only one held this year— was broadcast from the Stillwater campus of Oklahoma State University on October 2. The Tulsa campus was the site for OETA's broadcast of the debate between candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction on October 28. The third debate, between U.S. Senate candidates Connie Johnson, and shown over the CSPAN network, was held on October 7.

Bartlesville League volunteers registered voters at multiple locations, held two candidate forums, with good coverage from the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise, and prepared a voters guide insert that went to all Examiner Enterprise subscribers. The Bartlesville League also moderated forums and did vote-counting for the Delaware Tribal Elections.

The League of Women Voters of Lawton hosted a candidate forum, held on October 30 in City Council chambers, for all candidates for City Council and Judicial elections. The event was covered by the Lawton Constitution. Members passed out information about the League of Women Voters and about voting, including use of Vote411.

Norman League members held a candidate forum on October 7 for all candidates running for Oklahoma House Districts 20, 45 and 46. Their League had sponsored a community forum in September, titled "The Future of Norman." Both events were well-attended.

Members of the Stillwater League hosted two statewide candidates' debates: the Oklahoma gubernatorial debate broadcast live by OETA from Oklahoma State University on October 2nd, and on October 7, volunteers worked with Dr. Brandon Lenoir of OSU to host a debate between U.S. Senate candidates Connie Johnson and James Lankford, which was shown on CSPAN video. The Stillwater League also hosted a Payne County assessors forum for candidates Ted Smith and James Cowan on October 21, and they did a great job of getting Stillwater residents informed about the Vote411 online voters guide.

The League of Women Voters of Tulsa volunteers were busy hosting many forums and debates. Several were held in cooperation with other organizations, including a forum Tulsa District Attorney runoff election in August, and judicial forums in October and November. Tulsa League volunteers acted as timers and question screeners for the debate and gave out voter information at the event.

Tulsa League Superintendent Debate Volunteers
Tulsa League members giving out voter guide at OETA/OSU/LWVOK Superintendants' Debate

Oklahoma Vote411 Use Increases Dramatically

Vote411bannerThere was some good news in the Google analytics shared by the League's national office showing our state's use of Vote411 this year.

The statistics show that Oklahoma's Vote411 online voters guide was visited by 23,990 users in 2014. This is an almost-unbelievable increase of 1,966.32% when compared to 2010, when 1,161 users came to the site. (note: 2010 was used for comparison because it was the last non-presidential general election year.)

Oklahoma City with 6,334 visits led the state in number of users; Tulsa was a close second with 6,228 visits. All Oklahoma communities with local Leagues showed significant increases in the number of users in 2014.

Even more encouraging is the number of users in communities where there is currently no local League. For example, there were 94 visits from the city of Weatherford. In 2010, only one user came to Vote411 from that city. In future years, it may be possible to see even more use in cities without a local League, and see that use translate into growth in membership.

In future elections, the LWVOK Vote411 team will be sure to let candidates know that we've had a tremendous increase in the number of visits to our site. It's important for candidates to know that more and more voters across the state are looking for the nonpartisan, unbiased voter information provided by the League of Women Voters, and they are increasingly finding that information via Vote411.

LWVOK 2013 - 2015 Program Update: It Takes a Village

We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it will take a lot a committed and engaged LWVOK members to reach our goal of reviewing our Program for Action (previously known as Program Positions) volume in time for the 2015 convention.

Members of the LWVOK Program Committee have been working on this review since 2013. To be honest, it took us almost a year to even devise the process. We were in uncharted territory and it took some time to figure out how to best achieve what we wanted.

The committee, chaired by Karen Melcher of the Stillwater League, decided it would be helpful to separate our position statements from the "background" or historical information about them. We did so in order to focus on the statements that provide the foundation for our advocacy work. Of course, we need to know our history, too, and will always keep that as a living document, to be updated as we review and update any of our positions.

We did our "due diligence." After dividing up the positions to be summarized, we shared our summaries with each other and critiqued them. Then, we asked about a dozen people to evaluate our summaries. But, as more than one politician has said: "Mistakes were made."

When I took our study guide to a meeting of the Tulsa League Program Committee, one of the members asked why sections on sentencing and parole were missing from our summary on corrections. I was the only member of the LWVOK Program Committee there and, to be honest, I was flabbergasted. I was pretty sure that I had done the original summary of the corrections position and I knew that the person who had critiqued my summary was careful and accurate.

Later, I went back and checked on the earlier documents I had and, sure enough, the sections on sentencing and parole were there. When had they gone missing? How? Since we shared most of work electronically, my best guess is that, in copying and pasting, something bad happened.

The point is not that we may be working with a flawed document as we work on revision. Given the depth and breadth of the project, it would be a miracle if we weren't.

The lesson here is that we are all working on this process together. Since someone caught the error and spoke up about it, we can make corrections and adjustments.

Regardless of how your local League is approaching the Herculean task of recommending what should be done with the various position statements, it is more important than ever that all of us come to the process having studied the material.

And, if you find other missing sections, please bring them to the attention of LWVOK President Sheila Swearingen or LWVOK Program Chair Karen Melcher.

Karen Hardy Cárdenas
LWV Metropolitan Tulsa
LWVOK Program Committee Member

Nominations Needed for the 2015 - 2017 Board of Directors

Your LWVOK Nominating Committee Needs Your Nominations

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma Nominating Committee still needs a few good Leaguers for the 2015-17 board.

Please consider nominating yourself or a member of your own League to serve on the 2015 - 2017 LWVOK Board of Directors. The nominee should be someone who is ready to support the work of the League at the state level. Experience serving on other nonprofit boards is helpful, but not necessary.

For our younger members, it's true that serving on the League board can be a good resumé builder.

Things to know

Local League board experience is helpful, but not required. Board members keep in touch by email, so candidates should be comfortable with sending and receiving email. It's helpful to have some background in in MS Word and Excel or similar programs. Social media experience can be helpful, too. If candidates have served on other boards and have a basic understanding of budgeting and financial reports, this will be a plus.

The board usually meets every other month, and board members are asked to serve on a committee or take on special projects.

Please click here to download a nomination form.

You may send the completed form to Deborah Langley 39 Canyon View Rd., Bartlesville, OK 74003, or email it to Cowgirl1920ok@yahoo.com. You may also phone 918-336-6642 if you have questions.

The nominating committee's work must be completed by the end of February, 2015, so send your nominations in as soon as possible.

-- Submitted by Deborah Langley, LWVOK Nominating Committee Chair (updated December 1, 2014)

2014 General Election: State Questions on the Ballot

Current State Questions (2014)

Following are ballot titles for State Questions currently on the ballot for the Nov. 4 General Election. For more information, refer to the Secretary of State's website.

SQ 769 THE GIST OF THE PROPOSITION IS AS FOLLOWS:

This measure amends Section 12 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution. That Section currently imposes limits on an individual simultaneously holding certain government offices. The amendment would permit those serving in state offices of trust or profit to also hold certain military positions. Holders of an Oklahoma office of trust or profit who currently can not simultaneously hold certain military positions, include:

Legislators; State Judges; District Attorneys; Statewide elected officials, such as the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Treasurer; Members of State Boards, Agencies and Commissions, and Many County Officers.

The measure creates a state constitutional right permitting holders of Oklahoma offices of trust or profit to also serve and be called to active duty or active service in the following military positions:

An Officer or Enlisted Member of The National Guard, The National Guard Reserve, The Oklahoma State Guard, or Any other active militia or military force organized under State law; An Officer of the Officers Reserve Corps of the United States or An Enlisted Member of the Organized Reserves of the United States.

The Measure empowers the Legislature to enact laws to implement the amended Section.

These two links are for State Question 769 + Exemptions to Dual Office Holding

Oklahoma Secretary of State

St. Johns Law Review

Restrictions on holding concurrent office

SQ 770

THE GIST OF THE PROPOSITION IS AS FOLLOWS:

This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Section 8E of Article 10. This section provides a homestead exemption to certain qualifying disabled veterans. It also provides a homestead exemption to the surviving spouse of qualifying disabled veterans. This measure would allow either the veteran or his or her surviving spouse to sell the homestead but acquire another homestead property in the same calendar year. The exemption would apply to the newly acquired homestead property to the same extent as the original exemption for the homestead property that was sold.

SQ 771

THE GIST OF THE PROPOSITION IS AS FOLLOWS:

This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It would add a new Section 8F to Article 10. It would create a homestead exemption for the surviving spouse of military personnel who die in the line of duty. The United States Department of Defense or the applicable branch of the United States military would make the determination regarding whether the person engaged in military service died while in the line of duty. It would provide the surviving spouse of such person with a one hundred percent (100%) exemption for the fair cash value of the homestead until the surviving spouse remarried. This measure would allow the surviving spouse to sell the homestead, but acquire another homestead property in the same calendar year. The exemption would apply to the newly acquired homestead property to the same extent as the original exemption for the homestead property that was sold. The exemption would apply beginning in calendar year 2015. The exemption would also apply for the 2014 calendar year if the surviving spouse meets applicable requirements.

Background:

The Homestead Exemption is an exemption of $1,000 of the assessed valuation.

This can be a savings of $87 - $134 depending on which area of the county you are located.

(Oklahoma County Assessor Website)

What are Property Taxes Used For?

Property taxes are based on the value of the property. For example, the property tax on a vacant lot valued at $10,000 is usually ten times as much as one valued at $1,000 if located in the same taxing jurisdiction. Property taxes are local taxes. Your county officials value your property, set your tax rates and collect your taxes. However, state law governs how the process works. The property tax provides more tax dollars for local services in Oklahoma than any other source. Property taxes help to pay for public schools, city streets, county roads, police, fire protection and many other services. The Oklahoma Constitution authorizes the property tax.

(Source: Oklahoma Property Taxes: 2014 Taxpayers' Rights, Remedies and Responsibilities, Taxpayer Education Series, TES-14)

Current Allowable Homestead Exemption for Disabled Veterans or a Surviving Spouse

Are you a 100% Disabled Veteran or a Surviving Spouse of a 100% Disabled Veteran?

You may qualify for a real and personal property tax exemption. You must be an Oklahoma resident and eligible for homestead exemption. An exemption from property tax on homesteads is available for 100% disabled veterans. The exemption would apply to 100% disability rated veterans and their surviving spouses. The exemption would be for the full fair cash value of the homestead real and household personal property. To qualify for the exemption the veteran must meet several requirements. First fair cash value of the homestead real and household personal property. To qualify for the exemption the veteran must meet several requirements. First, the veteran must have been honorably discharged from a branch of the Armed Forces. Second, the veteran would have to be a State resident. Third the veteran would have to have a 100% permanent disability. Fourth, the disability would have to have been sustained through military action or accident or result from a disease contracted while in active service. Fifth, the disability would have to be certified by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Finally the veteran would have to be otherwise qualified for homestead exemption Exemptions must be applied for in the same year it is requested.

(Source: Oklahoma Property Taxes: 2014 Taxpayers' Rights, Remedies and Responsibilities, Taxpayer Education Series, TES-14)

Questions:

1.What is the best estimate of the number of such exemptions that will be claimed annually?
2. What will be the annual revenue impact on property tax collections if these exemptions are recognized and allowed?
3. What funding sources will be negatively impacted by the loss of revenue from these exemptions?
4. What other revenue streams will be available to make up that loss?

2014 Council in Bartlesville

The League of Women Voters of Bartlesville hosted this year's LWVOK Council held May 17. It was, in the words of one attendee, "The best ever!"

2014 LWVOK Council Attendees
League of Women Voters of Oklahoma 2014 Council Attendees

The lunch speaker, Kara Joy McKee of the Oklahoma Policy Institute (OKPolicy.org), provided excellent information on state policies and politics.

Kara Joy McKee OK Policy at 2014 LWVOK Council
Kara Joy McKee
She reminded League attendees that four minimum things are needed from Oklahoma citizens in order to bring about change:
  • Know what is going on
  • Talk about what's going on to those in power
  • Hold them accountable
  • Interest two friends in the first three

Karen Melcher gave an excellent summary of our state League's work on updating our program positions. (See more here)

Deborah Langley, LWVOK nominating committee chair, asked all attendees to begin thinking about who to nominate for next year's state League board election. (See more here)

The board extends special thanks to Pat Netzer, LWV Bartlesville president, Sharon Hurst, LWV Bartlesville for registration administration, and huge thanks to Margaret Hooper, LWV Bartlesville, who made all the arrangements for some of the best food ever served at Council.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE U.S. 2014 Convention in Dallas

Oklahoma at LWVUS Convention 2014
Oklahoma Delegates at LWVUS 2014 Convention
Oklahoma was in the house as more than 700 delegates gathered for this year's LWVUS convention in Dallas.

Caucuses and training sessions covered voting rights, ending gerrymandering, climate change action, building diversity and growing sustainable Leagues -- and much more.

Delegates heard from a number of outstanding speakers, from Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez to NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

Leagues from around the country are taking action in ways that matter. A few examples:

  • Louisiana, North Carolina and Colorado Leagues are pushing for transparency and regulation of fracking
  • California League initiated a process resulting in a Citizens Redistricting Commission
  • Several state Leagues are pushing for election modernization, which includes online and same-day voter registration, expanded early voting days, and early registration for 16 and 17 year olds.
  • Many state Leagues have continued to fight voter ID laws requiring photo IDs, and the Leagues in Kansas and Arizona have gone to court to fight proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements

National Study for 2014 - 2016:Delegates approved a comprehensive three-part program combining study and review of key, specific structures of American democracy, consisting of: A study of the process of amending the U.S. Constitution; A review and update of the League position on campaign finance in light of forty years of change; and a review of the redistricting process for the U.S. Congress. A later resolution called for moving forward quickly on this program.

Restoration of Voting Rights: A resolution was passed supporting restoration of voting rights in federal elections to citizens with felony convictions who have been released from prison or who have been paroled or placed on probation. Additionally, the resolution called for support for state Leagues working on this issue.

Climate Change: A second resolution calls for the LWVUS to support a price on carbon emissions that will increase in stages, as part of an overall program to improve energy efficiency and to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, fast enough to avoid serious damage to the climate system.

Per Member Payment: Delegates approved the 2014 - 2016 budget, with the current $31 per-member-payment retained for 2014 -2015 and rising to $32 for 2015-2016. (Note: Local and state Leagues pay the national organization a per-member payment amount each year based on membership as of January 31 of that year)

LWVUS Board of Directors:Elisabeth MacNamara was elected to another two-year term as President after a challenge from another candidate. The professionalism displayed by all candidates for the board was impressive.

Oklahoma Delegates: Inspired and Ready to Work

LWVUS 2014 Convention Delegates from Oklahoma
From left to right: Barbara VanHanken, LWV Tulsa; Deborah Langley, LWV Bartlesville; Cassie Reed, LWV Stillwater; Sheila Swearingen, LWV Oklahoma; Joanne Murer, LWV Stillwater

Oklahoma's delegates came from Tulsa, Stillwater, Bartlesville and LWV Oklahoma. All were inspired by the caliber of our national leadership and by the knowledge and actions reported by delegates.

Lessons Learned

  • The League's non-partisan, issue-driven work is needed as much as ever Strong local Leagues build the capacity for state Leagues to tackle the big issues
  • Local Leagues need the state Leagues to take leadership in setting an action and advocacy agenda
  • Leagues around the country are growing again
  • Those taking the boldest actions and gaining visibility are growing the fastest

LWV Oklahoma Program Update

Renewing our Commitment to Action

Revising the LWVOK Program Positions Book

Oklahoma League members say one of the top priorities of this organization should be to take on a much more active role as an advocacy organization.

This fall, local League members will have the opportunity to engage with the publication that serves as the foundation for all League advocacy and action, the LWVOK Program Positions.

Delegates at 2013 LWVOK Convention requested that the current Program Positions book be updated so it would be easier to use for advocacy work.

League Program: the Vehicle for Action

League Basics (LWVUS publication) gives the following definitions and guidance to state and local Leagues:

What is Program? The League's program consists of those governmental issues that the League has chosen for concerted study and action at the national, state or local level. The program process is specified in both national and state League bylaws.

What is a Position Statement? A position is the League stand on a public-policy issue and the basis for action. It is established through the study and consensus process and is subject to regular review and re-adoption at state convention.

How can a Position Statement be changed? Since a position is the result of a study and consensus process undertaken by membership, substantive change to the position would have to go through this same process. In other words, an update which substantially changes a position or requires a restudy would result in a consensus-based position restatement or alteration that would then be submitted to the state board for adoption and presented at the next state convention. Changes must be based on member thinking and agreement whether they add to or subtract from the original position.

As with the main position summary, the state League board may make editorial changes to portions of positions. However, because these statements are a reflection of member consensus, only the convention delegates may delete positions based on finding that a goal has been accomplished, a clear error exists in the position statement or a demonstrated lack of current member agreement. Other types of changes in the positions require restudy or concurrence with another League's position.

Changes Proposed

At its July 12 meeting, the LWVOK Program Committee and representatives from local Leagues agreed that it's time to make a few basic changes.

The first proposal is to adopt the topical organization used by LWVUS in Impact on Issues.

Here's a proposed organization of the LWVOK position book:

Representative Government

Apportionment (cross reference with Impact on Issues)
Conflict of Interest
Constitutional Revision
County Government
Fiscal Policy
Instant Runoff Voting

Natural Resources

Water

Social Policy

Corrections System and Reintegration of female offenders

Education, to include Education Finance, Administration of Higher Education, Administration of Common Schools, Accountability (including standards and reporting), Textbook Selection, Corporal Punishment and Curriculum (possibly integrated with accountability)

Judicial System
Juvenile Justice
Living Will
Mental Health
Teenage Pregnancy Prevention

The second proposal is to adopt the title for the program book used by the LWV of Minnesota: Program for Action. These changes will be on the agenda at the next LWVOK board meeting, August 23. Local Leagues and local member thoughts and feedback on these proposed changes are welcome.

Local Leagues: An Opportunity Awaits

In September, local Leagues will be sent a study guide and study timeline for their work on recommendations for current positions. Each League will also receive the current LWVOK Program Positions Book, which may be slightly updated with the new organization and title. The current version is available on the state website. Click on LWVOK Program Positions Book to download a copy.

At the July 12 program committee meeting, attendees identified some high-priority issues and positions. These include education, fiscal policy (i.e. taxation), mental health and corrections.

Local Leagues and members can begin the process of working on this initiative by identifying members and local experts who could weigh in on issues, such as mental health, incarceration, education or taxation. All Oklahoma Leagues will be encouraged to work with community experts and members on this initiative. In addition, members of local Leagues who are identified as having a strong interest in an issue, such as education or mental health, will be encouraged to work as a team.

The opportunity awaits to forge strong ties with local members and community advocates through this work, and to take all members one step closer to being part of an active advocacy organization raising a little ruckus in Oklahoma.