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The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma's Positions on State Questions on the 2016 Ballot

What About the State Questions?

The people of Oklahoma will vote on seven state questions in November. The outcome of the vote on each of these questions will impact every citizen of this state in some fashion.

To read the full Ballot Title for each question and explanations of both sides of each state question, see the Oklahoma Voter Guide.

Read and download the League's complete Statement on State Questions 2016

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma has studied each of the state questions to be on the ballot this year. Its Board of Directors voted to take a position on five of the seven state questions, and to remain neutral on two.

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma neither supports nor opposes the following 2016 State Questions:

*State Question 779- Sales Tax for Education - Constitutional amendment that would raise state sales and use tax by one penny to fund teachers' salary increase of at least $5,000 and provide funding for other educational purposes.

*State Question 792- Alcohol and Liquor Reform - Constitutional amendment to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and high-point beer. It would also allow liquor stores to sell chilled beer and accessories such as corkscrews.


The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma supports the following 2016 State Questions:

*State Question 780- The Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act would reclassify certain low-level, non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

*State Question 781- The Rehabilitative Programs Fund Initiative will create a fund to take cost savings from the reduction in prisoners brought about by SQ780 and distribute those savings to counties for rehabilitative programs. If SQ780 doesn't pass, SQ781 will be moot


The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma opposes the following 2016 State Questions:

*State Question 776- Oklahoma Death Penalty - Enshrines in the state Constitution that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment. It further delegates to the Legislature the power to determine the method of execution if a current method is declared unconstitutional.

*State Question 777- Changes the Oklahoma Constitution to shield the farming and ranching industry from future state oversight unless there is a "compelling state interest."

*State Question 790 - Religion and the State: Removes an article from the State Constitution that prohibits the use of public funds and public property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution.

League of Women Voters of Oklahoma in Partnership to make "The Oklahoma Voter Guide" available across the state

The League of Women Voters is a partner in making the 20-page Oklahoma Voter Guide, loaded with information on voting, state questions, and a list of candidates, available to voters throughout the state.

The Oklaoma Voter Guide

Local Leagues in Bartlesville, Lawton, Norman, Stillwater and Tulsa will be distributing the guides at voter registration events and election forums.

Libraries will have copies available, too.

Newspapers across the state are inserting the guide, and it's also available online at



The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK
Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK
The Ada News, Ada, OK
Claremore Daily Progress, Claremore, OK
The Duncan Banner, Duncan, OK
Enid News & Eagle, Enid, OK
McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK
Muskogee Phoenix, Muskogee, OK
The Norman Transcript, Norman, OK
Stillwater News Press, Stillwater, OK
Tahlequah Daily Press, Tahlequah, OK
Woodward News, Woodward, OK


The Express-Star, Chickasha, OK
The Edmond Sun, Edmond, OK
Moore American, Moore, OK
Pauls Valley Democrat, Pauls Valley, OK
Pryor Daily Times, Pryor, OK
Stilwell Democrat Journal, Stilwell, OK

National League Convention News

League Initiates Making Democracy Work® Campaign for 2016 Elections

by Kelly Ceballos, League of Women Voters of the United States

Organization Elects Chris Carson of California as New National President

WASHINGTON, DC + The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) held its 52nd biennial national convention in Washington, DC and set its agenda for the next biennium. Through the Making Democracy Work® campaign, the League will fundamentally reshape our democracy by engaging millions more voters in the election process and strengthening the laws that govern money in politics, redistricting and voting rights so that it is free, fair and accessible to all.

Today, Chris Carson of Burbank, California was elected unanimously by the more than 700 delegates gathered at the Marriott Wardman Park. Carson, elected to serve a two-year term, will be the national organization's 19th president.

In her acceptance speech, Carson thanked members for entrusting her with the leadership of this 96-year-old organization. "It's an honor and a privilege to stand here today, thank you for choosing me to be your president. There is no doubt that today, our political situation is appalling, but it is not new. Much of our society's greatest progress is born out of challenging times and the same can happen today as we tap the power of women to create a more perfect democracy."

Throughout the gathering, delegates rallied around the League's 2016 Campaign for Making Democracy Work®, setting the League's agenda for the next two years, vowing to continue our fight for the voters. In addition, delegates reinforced the League's commitment to combat climate change and protect the environment, adopted strong statements on gun safety and DC statehood, and expanded its position on health care to include access to behavioral health services.

A League member since 1983, Carson served as the government director of the California League from 2005-2009 and was first elected to a two-year term on the League's national Board in 2014. Carson has led the League's redistricting reform task force for the past four years and has been the organization's national advocacy chair since 2014.

Throughout the weekend, convention participants heard from a variety of speakers including

  • Give Us the Ballot author and journalist Ari Berman,
  • NPR's Peter Overby
  • Joe Goldman of the Democracy Fund
  • Jennifer Lawless of American University's Women & Politics Institute
  • Amanda Taub of Vox & the New York Times
  • Keesha Gaskins of Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Lake Research Partners' President Celinda Lake

A panel of election experts on protecting and expanding the electorate was held on Saturday and included Christine Chen, APIAVote; Kristen Clark, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and Arturo Vargas, NALEO. All of the speakers commended the League and urged the organization to press forward using our community-based power on the critical issues of the day.

League of Women Voters Opposes State Question 777

League of Women Voters of Oklahoma Statement on State Question 777, "Right to Farm"

Don't Tie The Hands of the Legislature

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma opposes passage of State Question 777, "Right to Farm." adding a new section to our state Constitution.

At first glance, a state question titled "Right to Farm" might seem worthy of voters' support. Who could possibly oppose the "right " to farm?

Does this mean that the League of Women Voters opposes farmers and the valuable contributions of agriculture to our state? Not at all. We honor the agricultural roots of our state and the individual farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to raise livestock and grow food here in Oklahoma.

However, the broad language of the "Right to Farm" amendment is troubling. The first part reads:

To protect agriculture as a vital sector of Oklahoma's economy, which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security and is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma's economy, the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state.

The League questions the need for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the rights of farmers and ranchers. Oklahoma already has a right to farm law on the books (Okla. Stat. tit. 50, §§ 1 to 1.1) The law clearly protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits.

The next paragraph is particularly troubling to the League.

The legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.

The requirement to show a "compelling state interest" sets an impossibly high bar, and would effectively tie the hands of future legislatures. Any proposed legislation would be subjected to the same legal standard used to challenge laws that discriminate on the basis of race, or deprive people of fundamental rights like free speech, gun ownership, or religious freedom. Because this high bar would make it almost impossible for our legislators to consider common-sense regulation of agricultural practices, the League believes this proposal would inhibit good government.

Finally, the League is concerned that voters will be confused by the vague language that will be on the November 8 ballot describing the proposed amendment.

This measure adds a new section of law to the State Constitution. It adds Section 38 to Article 2. It protects the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices. It prohibits the Legislature from passing laws that would take away the right to employ agricultural technology and livestock production without a compelling state interest. It provides for interpretation of the section.

The League of Women Voters believes that voters have a right to be fully informed when they cast their ballots. Throughout the upcoming months we will focus on letting voters know our reasons for opposing "Right to Farm."

-May 28, 2016

State Questions 2016

What do you know about the State Questions that will be on the ballot in November?

If you say, "Not much," you're in good company. The League is working to educate members and voters around the state leading up to the November 8 vote.

Members and friends from around the state gathered on Saturday, June 18, to learn more from a panel of distinguished speakers, including Dr. Gary Allison, University of Tulsa School of Law, Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, House District 78 (term-limited in 2016), Wayne Greene, Editor, Tulsa World; Dr. Bob Darcy, Professor of Political Science, Oklahoma State University (Retired), and Patrick Meirick, University of Oklahoma, Political Communications. The following questions were discussed:

State Question 776 + Death Penalty, method of execution

This measure adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution, Section 9A of Article 2. The new Section deals with the death penalty. The Section established State constitutional mandates relating to the death penalty and method of execution. Under these constitutional requirements:

  • The Legislature is expressly empowered to designate any method of execution not prohibited by the United States Constitution.

  • Death sentences shall not be reduced because a method of execution is ruled to be invalid.

  • When an execution method is declared invalid, the death penalty imposed shall remain in force until it can be carried out using any valid execution method, and

  • The imposition of a death penalty under Oklahoma law + as distinguished from a method of execution + shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment under Oklahoma's Constitution, nor to contravene any provision of the Oklahoma Constitution.

State Question 777 + Right to Farm

This measure adds Section 38 to Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution.

This new Section creates state constitutional rights. It creates the following guaranteed rights to engage

  • The right to make use of agricultural technology,

  • The right to make use of livestock procedures, and

  • The right to make use of ranching practices.

These constitutional rights receive extra protection under this measure that not all constitutional rights receive. This extra protection is a limit on lawmakers' ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights. Under this extra protection, no law can interfere with these rights, unless the law is justified by a compelling state interest - a clearly identified state interest of the highest order. Additionally, the law must be necessary to serve that compelling state interest.

The measure - and the protections identified above - do not apply to and do not impact state laws on

  • Eminent domain,

  • Dominance of mineral interests,

  • Right of way or other property rights, and

  • Any state statutes and political subdivision ordinances enacted before December 31, 2014.

State Question 779 + One Cent Sales Tax for the benefit of Education

PRELIMINARY BALLOT TITLE FOR SQ 779 as rewritten by the Attorney General

This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution. The new Article creates a limited purpose fund to improve public education. To provide revenue for the fund, the state sales and use tax are increased by one cent. It allocates funds for purposes related to the improvement of public education, such as increasing teacher salaries, addressing teacher shortages, programs to improve reading in early grades, increasing high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness. It also allocates funds for improving higher education, improving career and technology education, and increasing access to voluntary early learning opportunities for low-income and at-risk children. It requires that the teacher salary increases funded by this measure raise teacher salaries by at least $5,000 over the salaries pain in the year prior to adoption of this measure. It requires an annual audit of school districts' use of monies from the fund. It prohibits school districts' use of these funds for increasing superintendents' salaries or adding superintendent positions. It requires that monies from the fund not supplant or replace other educational funding. The Article takes effect on the July 1 after its passage.

State Question 790 + Prohibition against public expenditure and property use for religious purposes

Final ballot language

This measure would remove Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the government from using public money or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution. Article 2, Section 5 has been interpreted by the Oklahoma courts as requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol. If this measure repealing Article 2, Section 5 is passed, the government would still be required to comply with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which is a similar constitutional provision that prevents the government from endorsing a religion or becoming overly involved in a religion.

State Question 792 + Alcoholic Beverages

Proposed Ballot Title reviewed by AG's office - "does not comply" (filed with SOS 06/06/2016); AG to rewrite ballot title and file within ten (10) business days of 06/06/2016


Legislative Referendum No. 270 State Question No. 792


This measure enacts Article 28A and repeals Article 28 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Beverages that contain alcohol are governed by the new Article and other laws. It requires the Legislature to enact laws to regulate alcoholic beverages. Common ownership between tiers of the alcoholic beverage business is prohibited, with some exceptions. Some restrictions apply to manufacturers, brewers, winemakers and wholesalers. Direct shipments to consumers are prohibited unless direct shipments of wine are authorized by law, subject to limitations. Licenses to sell wine, beer and spirits at retail locations are required. The Legislature could prescribe other licenses. Sales of wine and beer are permitted at certain licensed retail locations. Licenses may sell refrigerated or non-refrigerated products, and Retail Spirits

Licensees may sell products other than alcoholic beverages in a limited amount. Certain persons are prohibited from being licensed. Certain acts are made unlawful. The Legislature could by law, designate days and hours during which alcoholic beverages could be sold, and impose taxes on sales. Certain restrictions relating to the involvement of the state and political subdivisions and public employees are specified. Municipalities could also levy an occupation tax. The amendment will be effective October 1, 2018, with on provision becoming effective upon passage.

LWVOK 2016 Council in Lawton

Council Meeting in Lawton, May 20 and 21, 2016

Council Highlights

Friday, May 20

Lawton City Hall is the former Lawton High School, imaginatively updated
Discovering Lawton Members of the League of Women Voters of Lawton, the gracious hosts for this year's Council, arranged a "Discover Lawton" tour on Friday afternoon. The tour included stops at the Comanche Museum, Lawton City Hall, the historic Mattie Beal home, and a local antique store.

City Council Chambers, Lawton City Hall. Left to right: Diane McNeal, Deborah Whittaker, Arlie Hampton, Erica Mackey, Cheryle Sherman, Jacqueline Achong, Sheila Swearingen, Doris Kupfer, Joyce Collard, Helen Duchon, Kathleen Kastelic, Karen Cardenas
The tour included a stop at Lawton's beautiful City Council Chambers, formerly its high school auditorium, where the Lawton League hosts its candidate forums. Guests agreed that the City of Lawton was wise to preserve and use this building for its important civic meetings.

Lawton League members who provided a warm welcome Friday afternoon, volunteering to drive guests on the tour of their beautiful city were Diane McNeal, Arlie Hampton, Cheryle Sherman and Jacqueline Achong.

Dinner with the League at Salas Urban Cantina was enjoyed by all who arrived on Friday.

Thank you Lawton League!

Saturday, May 21

Jacqueline Achong, Lawton League of Women Voters, and Sheila Swearingen, League of Women Voters of Oklahoma

Saturday's Council session opened with a welcome from Lawton League President Jacqueline Achong, who led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sheila Swearingen, League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, followed with an interactive session on embracing change in our organization. Sharing included ideas for including new members, trying new ways of building coalitions in the community, use of social media, building diversity and being inclusive.

In the Ideas Worth Stealing session, local League chapters shared highlights and "ideas worth stealing" to spark new ways of engaging with communities.

The highlight of the morning was the Bartlesville League's presentation. Attendees loved the banner from Bartlesville League, used to promote their Voting is Power initiative,

Pat Netzer showing Bartlesville LWV banner
Pat Netzer, Bartlesville League, shows the VIP banner
The Bartlesville League is engaging with a growing coalition of community partners to encourage
higher voter turnout in the 2016 elections through the V.I.P. initiative.

The Lawton League of Women Voters' calendar of community events is going to be even more filled during this election year. Two of the highlights of the year are Women's Equality Day on August 26, and the annual Naturalization Ceremony co-hosted with the Lawton Arts and Humanities Council.

Norman League members were busy with voter registration and found that the Norman library was an excellent location to set up. The League's forums continue to be a model for other organizations in the community and they find that other groups, such as the PTA, call on them for guidance in setting up nonpartisan candidate forums.

The Stillwater League of Women Voters completed a study on drug policy and adopted a new position, founded an advocacy phone team to make calls to legislators on issues of interest, did lots of high school voter registration, and is continuing to empower new leaders.

The Tulsa League's candidate forums have attracted a lot of community attention, as well as forging new community connections. The new Madam Presidentfundraiser in April was termed a huge success. It raised significant contributions, raised the profile of the League in the community, and empowered the young members of the League who organized the event.

League Legacy Awards were given to Dortha Dunlap of the Bartlesville League, and Mary McClure of the Lawton League. Both have been members of the League for many years, and both have made significant contributions.

Nominations: A Look into the Future was a reminder that building a solid board of directors in local chapters is one of the best ways to ensure success and growth. It was announced that Mary Jo Neal, Tulsa League, will chair the nominations committee for the 2017 - 2019 board of directors elections for the state League of Women Voters.

Dr. Suzanne Crawford Jones
Dr. Suzanne Jones Crawford, Cameron University
The keynote address was given by Dr. Suzanne Jones Crawford of Cameron University, co-author with Lynn Musslewhite of One Woman's Political Journey: Kate Barnard and Social Reform, revealed a part of Oklahoma women's history that was new to most. Elected in 1907 as the first Oklahoma Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, Kate Barnard served two four-year terms. This office was the only one that the 1907 Oklahoma State Constitution permitted a woman to hold. and while in office Barnard brought much-needed reforms to the new state. Kate Barnard was convinced that women could bring positive change by moving into the public arena, and she encouraged women's participation. Dr. Crawford remarked, that she was sure the League would support Barnard's contention that women should be involved in politics and advocacy, but be surprised to learn that she never publicly endorsed women's suffrage.

Karen Cardenas, LWVOK Program Chair
The afternoon session began with LWVOK Program Chair Karen Cardenas posing a true-false quiz on Oklahoma Fiscal Policy. Oklahoma's fiscal policies and its current problems presented a lively exchange with Council attendees. Cardenas reminded all that the study materials and response form are now available on the LWVOK website on the 2015 - 2017 Study page

The business meeting concluded the day, with delegates voting to approve the 2016 - 17 budget, and a bylaws amendment that will allow biennial budgeting, beginning in 2017. This is the practice followed by our national organization, and it should make planning and budgeting easier in the future.

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma extends sincere thanks to the League of Women Voters of Lawton for hosting the 2016 Council meeting, to all delegates and members, and to Helen Duchon, League of Women Voters of Norman, who took some the wonderful pictures shared here.

League of Women Voters of the United States Council 2015

The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) held its biennial Council in mid-June at the National Conference Center near Washington, DC.

President of the League of Women Voters of the United States, Elisabeth MacNamara, welcomed delegates, shared her own pride in the League's 95-year history, and said that all Leagues and members can draw he great strength from our heritage. She also noted the many ways that the world has changed and the the rate of change is accelerating. The key is learning to embrace positive change.

The three days of Council included plenary and training sessions on election reforms, money in politics, effective messaging and how to be leaders in a changing environment.

There was also plenty of time for informal networking and exchanging ideas during breaks and gatherings.

One of the most challenging sessions was titled Positive Change: Who Moved the League's Cheese? Led by Anita Loch, LWVUS board member with more than twenty years of experience as a human resources officer for global corporations, this session encouraged League leaders to look for a positive path through the maze of social, civic, generational, communications and political changes that confront us. Click here for the power point for the Positive Change: Who Moved the League's Cheese?

Plenary sessions at Council included Why States Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies & Promising Reforms that Increase Turnout by Dr. Erin O'Brien; The New Soft Money, Professor Daniel Tokaji; Redistricting, Lloyd Leonard; The New Environment (Civic Engagement), Matt Leighninger; and Advocacy and Online Engagement (How Social Media Changes Advocacy), Emily Shaw.

Training workshops included Messaging for Impact, Preparing for 2016 Program Success, Developing Bold and Effective New Leaders; Vote411, and Social Media Resources.

The LWVUS staff did an excellent job supporting workshops and delegates. To provide after-Council reminders and presentation materials for delegates and League leaders, staff has provided this page online with all training and plenary presentations.

National Voting Rights Act Settlement

Voting Rights Advocates Settle Matter Alleging NVRA Violations

Oklahoma Agrees To Bring Public Assistance Agencies into Compliance with the Law

NEW YORK, WASHINGTON and OKLAHOMA CITY (July 30, 2015) + Voting rights advocates and Oklahoma officials announced today that a settlement has been reached to provide more effective voter registration opportunities to citizens throughout the state.

This effort began last summer when the Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League, the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma and Metropolitan Tulsa, and YWCA Tulsa notified Paul Ziriax, the Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, that it appeared Oklahoma's public assistance agencies were not offering clients a meaningful opportunity to register to vote. Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), state agencies that provide public assistance must ask clients whether they want to register to vote, offer them voter registration materials, and help them complete registration forms.

The community groups said in their letter to Secretary Ziriax that the number of voter registration applications reported statewide by Oklahoma public assistance agencies had dropped 81 percent since the initial implementation of the NVRA in 1995. At the same time, the average monthly participation in the SNAP program, just one of the programs covered by the NVRA, nearly doubled. Only 61 percent of Oklahoma citizens in low-income households were registered to vote in 2012, compared to 81 percent of those in affluent households. In fieldwork investigations conducted at Oklahoma public assistance agencies on behalf of the community groups, a significant percentage of agency clients interviewed said that they received no voter registration services whatsoever when, under the NVRA, they should have.

"After we sent the notice letter in August of last year, Oklahoma's officials quickly demonstrated a commitment to our shared American value that every eligible voter should be able to vote come election day," said Jenn Rolnick Borchetta, Senior Counsel at Demos and a lawyer for the community organizations in this matter. "By agreeing to a comprehensive blueprint for voter registration services at public assistance agencies across the state, Oklahoma has exemplified the NVRA's principle and promise: states must do their part to bring all Americans into our democracy."

"As an American, our vote is our voice, it is a powerful expression of what we value," said Deidre Alvarez, Director of Housing at Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League. "At the Urban League, both locally and nationally, we empower the community to exercise their right to vote, to have a say in important issues that affect their community, to hold public officials accountable and seek justice."

"This settlement helps make voter registration more accessible to many Oklahomans. It is a win for the organizations involved and for the state of Oklahoma," said Brady Henderson, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. "Communities are strongest and healthiest when people from all walks of life are empowered to participate in the political process freely. Oklahoma is no exception. Our state is made stronger when more of its people can exercise their right to guide its government."

Today's settlement agreement is between the community groups and the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Election Board, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, and the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority. It includes a robust plan for ensuring public assistance applicants receive voter registration services throughout Oklahoma in compliance with the NVRA. Some highlights of the agreement include:

Each public assistance agency will ask all public assistance clients whether they want to register to vote, provide voter registration forms, offer clients assistance in completing forms, and transmit completed voter registration applications to elections officials. These services will be offered regardless of how the client interacts with the agency + whether in person, online, through self-service portals, or over the phone. Each public assistance agency will assign a staff member responsibility for coordinating and implementing voter registration services, and all staff who engage clients during public assistance transactions will be trained on how they must provide voter registration services. The Oklahoma State Election Board will oversee public assistance agencies to ensure voter registration services are provided. This oversight will include regularly reviewing public assistance agency compliance, publicly reporting its findings, and intervening when it appears a particular office or agency is failing to provide required registration services. "The League of Women Voters is encouraged by the positive response from our election officials and agency directors to the request. We are confident that full compliance with the NVRA will increase voter registration by low-income Oklahomans. This is what is at the core of the League's work: advocating for systems that improve our democracy and allow everyone's voice to be heard," said Sheila Swearingen, president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma.

"We are pleased that Oklahoma took seriously our concerns and worked with us in good faith to create a compliance plan that meets everybody's needs," said Michelle Rupp, Election Counsel & Assistant General Counsel at Project Vote. "When advocates and government officials work together, everybody wins."

The community groups were represented by public policy organizations Demos, the ACLU of Oklahoma, Project Vote, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"YWCA Tulsa is grateful that the Oklahoma State Election Board took the community's concerns seriously, and worked with us to create a strategy to ensure voting is accessible to more Oklahomans," said Vanessa Finley, YWCA Tulsa Chief Executive Officer. "With voter turnout in our state at record lows, it's critical that every eligible citizen have the opportunity to register and participate fully in the democratic process."

"This agreement is a win-win for Oklahoma voters, the State of Oklahoma and American democracy," said Ezra Rosenberg, Lawyers' Committee Voting Rights Project Co-Director. "To achieve this result without the need to resort to litigation is a testament both to the legitimacy of the issues that have been resolved and the responsiveness of state officials after the problem was brought to their attention."

LWVOK 2015 Convention Speaker Linda Wassenich

Linda Wassenich, LWVUS Board of Directors
Linda Wassenich, LWVUS Board of Directors

Linda Wassenich, LWVUS Board member and Oklahoma liaison, opened the 55th Convention of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma with a strong reminder of our powerful history. She acknowledged that the current political landscape is challenging, but no more difficult than the circumstances faced by the League's founder, Carrie Chapman Catt, as she and others made the final, successful push for suffrage.

"Carrie Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (The National) on two separate occasions. The second time she assumed the leadership was in 1915. One hundred years ago, she evaluated both the external and the internal political environment of the movement, and she saw crisis and opportunity on both fronts.

"Externally, America was being drawn into the European War, a war in which women were playing an important part. Domestically, history tells us that 100 years ago, industrialization was causing economic upheaval, drawing immigrants to our shores. Rich industrial interests had too much power and access to elected officials.

"At the same time, Carrie Catt saw a mature suffrage movement in crisis, divided in strategy and tactics. But if she perceived a crisis, she also saw opportunity. In Europe, women were proving their worth and demanding the vote, and the path to war in America offered women the same chance.

"While the Congress remained immovable on the issue of a Federal amendment to give women the vote, the woman's movement had achieved so much in the 67 years since 1848 that the time was ripe to push that advantage. Women in 1915 were more educated, entering occupations from which they had been previously barred, controlled much more property and were a greater presence in the workforce.

"By 1915, 12 states had given women voting rights. Still, Carrie Catt saw more than this. She saw a vast reserve of suffrage supporters who were not and perhaps never would be members of the National. She said: 'Behind us, in front of us, everywhere about us are suffragists, -- millions of them, but inactive and silent...There are thousands of women who have ...been members of our organization but they have dropped out... Many have taken up other work whose results were more immediate...There are thousands of other women who have never learned of the earlier struggles of our movement. They found doors of opportunity open to them on every side....Almost without exception they believe in the vote but they feel neither gratitude to those who opened the doors through which they have entered...nor any sense of obligation to open other doors for those who come after...There are still others who, timorously looking over their shoulders to see if any listeners be near, will tell us that they hope we will win...but they are too help. There are others too occupied with the small things of life to help...There are men, too, millions of them waiting to be called. These men and women are our reserves...the final struggle needs their numbers and the momentum those numbers will bring.'"

Read Ms. Wassenich's entire presentation here

Voting is Power Launch Date Set

Tulsa Organizations Join Forces to Form "VIP: Voting is Power" Coalition
Coalition to host a kick-off event on August 22nd

Tulsa, OK, August 5, 2015 -- In response to critically low voter turnout, fifteen Tulsa county community organizations have joined forces to create the "VIP: Voting Is Power" Coalition. The Coalition is committed to increasing voter registration and voter turnout in Tulsa County through education and shared best practices. The coalition will hold a community-wide Voter Registration Drive Kick-Off event on Saturday, August 22, 10:00am-12:30pm at Rudisill Regional Library.

"The VIP Coalition hopes to reverse the negative voter engagement statistics that plague our area and state," said Mary Jane Lindaman, VIP Steering Committee chairperson. "Rather than continuing to wring our hands over the weak statistics for voter engagement, we have decided to do something to make a change and hope that other community members will feel this issue is as important as we do. We hope to empower the community with the knowledge that their vote matters."

The August 22nd event is designed to empower community leaders and organizations to host voter registrations drives for their constituencies. The kick off will include voter registration training, sessions on how to overcome barriers to voter turnout and messaging for underrepresented populations, and opportunities to brainstorm innovative ideas for election reform. Presenters include keynote speaker Nick Doctor, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Tulsa Regional Chamber; Tulsa County Election Board officials; spoken word artists; a youth representative; and coalition member organizations.

Every attendee will receive a voter registration kit, with all materials needed to organize a registration drive, including a branded bag, registration application forms, pens, a "cheat sheet," and other supplies.

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the August 22nd Kick-Off. The event is free and participants may register here. For more information, visit

VIP Coalition Partners: League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa, Coalition for the American Dream, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, A Third Place Community Foundation, YWCA Tulsa, NAACP Tulsa, North Star Neighborhood Development Association, Phoenix District, All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa's Young Professionals (TYPros), Neighbors Encouraging Other Neighbors (N.E.O.N.), Unity Moving Forward for Change (UMFC), Tulsa County Election Board, Church Women United, and the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The mission of the Voting is Power (VIP) Coalition is to increase voter registration, boost voter turnout, and stimulate civic participation by educating community leaders and organizations and the public about voter registration rules, regulations, and best practices.

Oklahoma Senator David Holt's Election Modernization Bills

Senator David Holt Hails 2015 Election Reforms

Oklahoma Senator David Holt
Sen. David Holt

Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Senate Bill 312, which consolidates local election dates to either one cycle in the spring or one cycle in the fall. This follows the successful adoption of other proposals championed by Sen. David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) to encourage higher voter turnout after dramatic recent declines.

"We took some major steps this year in addressing Oklahoma's civic participation crisis," said Holt. "First, we recognized that we have a problem. Second, we passed some important reforms, including online registration and local election consolidation. Having said that, there is much more to do, and I will continue to push the issue. Improving voter turnout is going to be a long process, and the responsibility is by no means limited to policymakers. We all have to take ownership."

SB 312 also creates a framework that discourages three-step elections at the local level. When only two elections are required to fill a position, it saves taxpayer dollars, minimizes voter fatigue, and reduces the potential reliance on fundraising from special interests.

"We have to get away from the idea that it takes three separate elections to fill one office," said Holt. "One day, I'd like to see that same vision implemented for all elective offices, but Senate Bill 312 does bring us toward that day at the local level."

Last year, just 29 percent of eligible Oklahomans turned out to elect the state's governor. In 2012, Oklahoma notched the third-worst Presidential turnout in the nation. And in 2014, fewer Oklahomans were registered to vote than had been in 1988. In response to these worrying trends, Sen. Holt introduced ten election reform proposals to address various aspects of the current process that discourage participation. Two of those bills became it into law this year, and a third proposal was passed into law by other authors.

SB 312 (Holt/Echols) + Consolidates elections for local elective office to either one cycle in the spring or one cycle in the fall. In Oklahoma City in 2014, school board elections occurred in February and city council elections occurred in March. Such inefficiencies that discourage turnout will no longer be possible with enactment of SB 312. Gov. Fallin signed it into law on June 4.

SB 313 (Holt/Banz) + Creates a secure online system to accept voter registration applications. A third of potential Oklahoma voters are not registered, but SB 313 provides a modern method to combat that problem. Signed by Gov. Fallin on April 17.

HB 2181 (Hickman/Quinn) + Lowers the number of signatures required to recognize a political party (similar to Senator Holt's SB 318). Signed by Gov. Fallin on May 12.

SB 315 (Holt/Hall) also passed the Senate but was not granted a hearing in the House. It allows voters to become permanent absentee voters. Other election reform proposals introduced by Holt, and eligible again for consideration in 2016, include a top two primary system, an all-mail election, modernization of absentee procedures, more opportunities to register, simplification of early voting, and easier ballot access for presidential candidates and initiatives.

League of Women Voters Convention Speakers

League of Women Voters of Oklahoma 2015 Convention Speakers

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma is pleased to announce two outstanding speakers for the morning session of its June 6 convention.

Linda Wassenich, LWVUS Board of Directors
Linda Wassenich, LWVUS Board of Directors

Linda Wassenich serves on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States and the Board of Trustees of the LWVUS Education Fund. She is the LWVUS Board Liaison to the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma. Linda was elected to a second term on the LWVUS board in June 2014.

Ms. Wassenich's areas of expertise include fund development and non-profit development. She was recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Dallas, as the Outstanding Fundraising Executive and by the National Association of Social Workers, Dallas, with the Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Award. She received the AAUW Laurel Award and the Women of Spirit award from the American Jewish Congress, Southwest Division.

In light of many changes in our organization and the communities we serve, her topic will be League Zeitgeist.

Ms. Wassenich will join members, friends and delegates at Dinner with the League in the restaurant at the Wyndham Garden Hotel at 6:30 pm on Friday, June 5. She'll lead off the Convention the next day and set the context for looking at our organization as we move into a time of more social media, electronic meetings, busy lives and multiple demands for our attention. She has promised to include time for questions and answers for League members and leaders, and has said she's available to talk about fund development with any League leader who's interested in that topic.

Oklahoma Senator David Holt
State Senator David Holt
State Senator David Holt represents the 30th District of Oklahoma, which includes portions of Northwest Oklahoma City, Bethany, Warr Acres and The Village.

Sen. Holt introduced a series of nine bills and one resolution in the 2015 session that focused on election modernization and increasing voter turnout in Oklahoma.

Sen. Holt has said,"Oklahomans are patriotic, but our voting record is undermining that reputation. Our plunging levels of civic participation are reaching crisis levels.This is an important conversation our state needs to have. This matters because it influences everything else. Oklahomans hand over billions of dollars to government, and they need to stand up and be a part of this process or they likely won't care for the results. Our republic cannot survive if these trends continue. I believe this package of bills, individually and collectively, would increase Oklahoma's turnout."

One of the bills introduced by Sen. Holt, instituting online voter registration has been signed into law by the Governor.

We'll look forward to learning more from Sen. Holt and discussing plans for election modernization legislation in the next session.

League of Women Voters Participating in Voter Engagement Initiative

Voting Matters

I voted sticked
If you voted last November in the mid-term elections, you were in the minority. Fewer than 1 in 3 eligible Oklahomans voted last year. (Read more about low voter turnout here)

League members take voting seriously. We ask ourselves why the right to vote--a right that others fought so hard to ensure--no longer seems important. We wonder why so many people seem willing to let others to make important decisions for them. We don't think this makes for a healthy democracy.

What Can We Do to Increase Voter Turnout?

Mary Jane Lindaman, LWVOK Voter Service Chair, has been working with a Tulsa-based community coalition that's committed to turning this trend around. The Voter Engagement Initiative is attracting a diverse group of community activists willing to find out what keeps people from voting and what can be done about it.

First meeting of the Voter Engagement Coalition.
Front left to right: Flo Reed, Tulsa League; Barbara VanHanken, Tulsa League; Marjorie Swofford, Tulsa League and Church Women United. Back left to right: Mary Jane Lindaman, LWVOK Voter Services; Pleas Thompson, NAACP Tulsa; Blanca Zavala, Coalition for the American Dream; Jennifer Ferre, community activist

The Voter Engagement Initiative's goal is to have a series of events that will make it easier for citizens to register, learn about elections and candidates and get to the polls to vote.

Plans are in the works for a Voter Engagement Summit to be held in Tulsa in late August, featuring workshops, brainstorming and a keynote speaker on the subject of how and why to increase voter turnout.

Tulsa partners in this initiative (to date) include the Tulsa League of Women Voters, the Coalition for the American Dream, the Martin Luther King Society, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, NAACP Tulsa, Church Women United, All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, Tulsa's Young Professionals (Typros), and YWCA Tulsa.

Lawton League Celebrates 103rd Birthday of Honorary Lifetime Member Juanita Perkins

Lawton League celebrates Juanita Perkins' birthday
Honoree Juanita Perkins, front row; back row from left to right, Arlie Hampton, Voter Service, Paula Medina, Vice President, Cheryle Sherman, Fund Development, and Jacqueline Achong, President

Members of the League of Women Voters of Lawton gathered to share a special birthday celebration of one of Oklahoma's honorary lifetime members, Juanita Perkins.

As an honorary lifetime member, Mrs. Perkins has seen the history of the League unfold during her years of membership. She shared stories about the meaning of membership in the League, and spoke of appreciating the good information she always gets from the League on issues, voting and elections. She noted that she had worked with study groups on topics as diverse as water and education, and said the issues the League studies have always been important in her community.

League members gave Mrs. Perkins a red rose and two balloons: one was red, white and blue; the other carried the message,"You are Special."

Televised Debate to be broadcast on OETA on October 28: Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction

John Cox and Joy Hofmeister

The League of Women Voters will again partner with Oklahoma State University and OETA to host a televised debate. The candidates for state superintendent of public instruction, Republican Joy Hofmeister and Democrat John Cox, will debate on Tuesday, October 28, beginning at 7 p.m., as part of the OSU Debate Series: Decision 2014 and OETA's Oklahoma Votes 2014 statewide election coverage.

The one-hour debate will be held at the OSU Tulsa auditorium, and there will be open seating available for an audience on a first-come, first-served basis.

OETA will air the debate live across the state and stream online at, with viewers encouraged to join the conversation on their social media platforms by using the hashtag #okvotes14.

Updates about the availability of seating and details will be posted to the League's Facebook page at

League of Women Voters, OETA and Oklahoma State University Governor's Debate October 2

Mary Fallin and Joe Dorman

Oklahoma State University, in partnership with OETA and the Oklahoma League of Women Voters, will be the host site for a state gubernatorial debate between Republican incumbent Mary Fallin and Democratic challenger Joe Dorman on Thursday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m., as part of the OSU Debate Series: Decision 2014 and OETA's Oklahoma Votes 2014 statewide election coverage.

The one-hour debate will be held at the OSU Student Union Theater in Stillwater. Both Fallin and Dorman are graduates of Oklahoma State University.

OETA will air the debate live across the state and stream online at, with viewers encouraged to join the conversation on their social media platforms by using the hashtag #okvotes14.

A panel of Oklahoma journalists, including OETA managing editor Dick Pryor, will ask the candidates questions, plus there will be questions from OSU students. Dr. Brandon Lenoir, a visiting OSU assistant professor in political science, will moderate the debate and OSU students will help facilitate the event. The debate also will be streamed live

OSU President Burns Hargis said the university is pleased to team with OETA and the League of Women Voters to host the debate. "OSU is proud to welcome back two alums running for the state's highest office," Hargis said. "The debate provides our students and the residents of Oklahoma a wonderful opportunity to hear each candidate's vision for the state."

"I'm looking forward to an opportunity to share my positive vision for Oklahoma with a statewide audience," said Gov. Fallin. "My thanks go out to OSU, OETA and the League of Women Voters for organizing an event that will allow Oklahomans to compare and contrast their candidates for governor. It will be a spirited and fun event."

Dorman said, "I look forward to returning to Stillwater for the gubernatorial debate sponsored by OETA, OSU and the League of Women Voters. I appreciate every opportunity to visit my alma mater and I am very pleased for this to serve as the first debate on the issues and policies facing Oklahomans. I firmly believe in the importance of civic engagement and dialogue in the election process. This will serve as the perfect avenue for Oklahoma voters to learn the differences in the candidates through a civil, spirited discussion. I am grateful for the hard work and efforts by OSU, OETA and the League of Women Voters to make this happen."

2014 LWVOK Council Held 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 (, 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.

Cindy Rosenthal, Mayor of Norman, Director of Carl Albert Center and League Member speaks to state board

Cindy Rosenthal, Mayor of Norman

League member, Director of the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma and Mayor of Norman, Cindy Rosenthal, was guest speaker for the state League board's January meeting. She was invited to speak about encouraging participation and the role of the League in 2014.

Ms. Rosenthal is the director and curator of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma and a professor of political science. As Mayor of Norman, Rosenthal's impressive accomplishments include working for environmental awareness and energy efficiency, spearheading Norman's inclusive community initiative, working for more transportation options and campaigning for more walkable neighborhoods.

When asked about the value of League participation, she said that in her experience membership and volunteering with the League proves vital for leadership development. As Mayor, she has been able to appoint League members to city boards and commissions, and has confidence that they will lead and serve the city well.

In response to a question about the unique role the League can play, she stressed the importance of being a trusted, nonpartisan source for information and dialogue. People look to the League for civil, honest discussion of important issues. Rosenthal said that we can't underestimate the value of the League in providing free, accessible non-partisan public and civic education. The League can educate without any hidden agendas, and the public trusts the League.

When the board asked her about how to attract younger members, she remarked that it's not just the League that has this problem. There are more time constraints for young professionals and young families. She mentioned that some civic organizations seem to do well by offering meetings at different times, and that attendance is good when the meetings are interest-driven. She concluded that there are no easy answers. We all have to find out how to reach busy, disconnected people.

A board member asked Mayor Rosenthal about the apparent loss of women in elective office. She replied that data does show the numbers to be decreasing over time, and that there are several factors influencing this trend: women do not usually consider public office when they are young; when they do think about it, they don't think they qualify and don't think they can win. She added that there isn't a strong women's movement pushing for support of women candidates.

As a means of addressing this downward trend, Cindy Rosenthal directs the Women's Leadership Initiative at the Carl Albert Center. Its purpose is to " . . .educate, inspire and empower women to become political leaders." Its programs and workshops are intended to encourage a resurgence in women serving on authorities, boards and commissions and running for elective office.

The board was both energized and challenged by Cindy Rosenthal's presentation. While there is much to be done, it's good to know there are excellent resources and role models in our state.

Posted January 29, 2014

2014: A Big Election Year

2014 Will Provide the League with lots of Voter Education and Information Opportunities

Look for lots of elections, a long ballot in November--and lots of opportunities for voter education this year. In November, Oklahomans will elect both U.S. Senators, all five U.S. Representatives, our Governor, State Superintendent of Schools, and most other statewide elected officials. We'll also have all 101 State Representatives and half (24) of our State Senators on the ballot.

Annual school board elections will be February 11; a number of municipal primaries are March 4;  municipal general elections and a special bond election in Tulsa County will be held on April 1; June 24 is the date for statewide primary elections with run-off elections on August 26; and, finally, November 4 will bring statewide general elections and a municipal election in Tulsa.

Vote411: Oklahoma Election Information 

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma is working with local League chapters to expand the use of Vote411 throughout the state. The reason is simple: it's a cost-effective, proven way to provide voters with the trusted, non-partisan information they need before heading to the polls.  

Across Oklahoma, there has been a surge of interest in online voter information.  From 2011 to 2013, there was a 711% increase in the number of Oklahomans visiting our LWVOK Vote411 site.

Local Leagues in Tulsa and Norman are already using Vote411 to inform voters about school elections coming up on February 11.  And we expect to see a lot more interest as voters turn to the League for "one-stop" voter information in this "Big Election Year."

Read more about Vote411 here.

LWVOK at the August 24 50th Anniversary of March on DC - Oklahoma Rally

Sheila Swearingen and Mary Francis at March on Wahsington Rally August 24, 2013

Sheila Swearingen, LWVOK President, and Mary Francis, LWVOK Director, carried the League banner for the one-mile walk from Stiles Park to the Oklahoma Capitol building for the August 24 rally in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma was a sponsor of the rally, which drew a diverse group of speakers and an equally diverse audience. The general theme of the event was that there's still a need for continuing to work for civil rights, voting rights, access to healthcare and quality education for all.

Fran Morris speaking at August 24 Rally for 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

League member Fran Morris at the rally

Longtime League member and civil rights activist, Fran Morris, was one of the invited speakers, and she reminded listeners that there is still a need to carry on the work started in 1963.

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma will actively seek ways to work in collaboration with the groups represented at the rally and will continue work on ensuring voting rights for all people, increasing access to healthcare, quality education for all students and ensuring that the gains made during the civil rights era are maintained and improved.

-Submitted by Sheila Swearingen, August 25, 2013

LWVOK Convention, June 1, 2013

Jan Largent, Stillwater League of Women Voters, submitted the following report for the SLWV Voter newsletter:

Our 2013 Convention Keynote speaker was Gary Allison. He teaches water law and constitutional law at the University of Tulsa College of Law. He is also counsel with WaterLaw, which represents the Tarrant Water District in Texas.

The case Tarrant Regional Water District vs. Hermann had not yet been decided at the time of convention and--as we learned after convention--the Supreme Court sided with Oklahoma.

Mr Allison gave a brief history of the The Red River Compact which was established 35 years ago and has worked well through the years with each of the four states (OK, LA, TX, and AR) being represented by two members each. A federal commissioner is a nonvoting member. The compact generally provides a means of working out problems between member states in an orderly manner thus preventing litigation between the states. The Red River Compact ensures that each state gets an equitable apportionment of water from the Red River and its tributaries. It also deals with quality and pollution problems.

Allison stated that Oklahoma will never come close to needing all the water reserved to it under the Red River Compact much less water reserved for Texas. Every day 34 million acre-feet of water flow out of OK in excess of all Oklahoma water uses. He compared that to the Colorado river with a 13.5 million acre-feet of water flow that provides water for Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and all of Southern California. The water in the Colorado River then enters Mexico.

In 2001, Oklahoma considered selling water to Texas water districts and splitting the profits between the state and the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. But that proposal by Gov. Keating was rebuffed by state legislators. In 2002, state legislators enacted a three-year moratorium on out of state water sales. In 2009 the Oklahoma legislature approved House Bill 1483 which requires legislative approval for any permit that would export out of state water compacted to Oklahoma. It also requires the Oklahoma water authority to consider in-state shortages before water can be permitted for out of state export.