Oklahoma election results highlighted several political realities Tuesday night: 1) It can take a while to get things done; 2) Voter turnout is routinely low; 3) Political experience doesn’t always win at the ballot box.
Tulsa Riverfront Package
In Tulsa, all three sales tax propositions that comprise the Vision 2025 program’s extension passed by broad margins. The propositions will fund public safety, street maintenance, public transportation and economic development, including two dams for the Arkansas River intended to change the city’s riverfront.
Comments in the Tulsa World showed just how long it can take for some political efforts to become a reality:
City Councilor G.T. Bynum, who is challenging (Mayor Dewey) Bartlett this year, noted planners first recommended low-water dams in 1964.
“Fifty-two years,” Bynum said. “Fifty-two years people have tried to do what Tulsans did tonight.”
Chelsea Public Schools bond
Meanwhile, voters in countless smaller communities took to the polls Tuesday as well. In at least one instance, a precinct remained open all day without a single vote being cast.
“It was one precinct, and it was very few people in that precinct,” said Twila Garrett, an employee at the Craig County Election Board. “Our numbers aren’t very good to go by on this one.”
Indeed, the Chelsea Public School District stretches into small portions of Craig, Mayes and Nowata counties. The balance of the district is in Rogers County.
“School districts, their paths don’t actually follow along with the county lines,” said Julie Dermody, secretary of the Rogers County Election Board. “The thing is, we’ve got 535 school districts in a state with only 77 counties.”
The Chelsea Public Schools bond was on ballots in Rogers, Craig, Mayes, Nowata counties, and it passed 204 to 49. Of the 253 total votes cast, 227 were from Rogers county, 21 were from Nowata County and five were from Mayes County. No one voted at the Craig County precinct.
Dermody noted that 3,315 registered voters in Rogers County were eligible to vote for or against the CPS bond issue. With only 227 voting, however, turnout in her county totaled only 6.8 percent of registered voters. Garrett said the Craig County secretary was out of the office Wednesday and that she didn’t know how many people in her county were eligible to vote in CPS elections.
Dermody offered perspective on the low turnout.
“They could have very well put this (vote) with the presidential primary, and if they had done that, they would have saved money for their school district as well because the state would have picked up everything but their ballots,” Dermody said. “I think that’s the biggest situation we have.”
In Norman, multiple City Council positions were elected Tuesday, and the position of Norman mayor was Lynne Miller’s all the way. Final results show her with about 70 percent of total votes, with Gary Barksdale a distant second at 24 percent and Bobby Stevens trailing with 6 percent.
Oklahoma County Court Clerk
Call it a comeback.
Although Sen. Anastasia Pittman (D-OKC) held a lead in early returns for the position of Oklahoma County Court Clerk, Republican candidate Rick Warren Jr. won just more than half the total votes on absentee and election-day ballots. He finished with 53 percent of the 20,456 votes cast.
The position’s “primary duty is to record and maintain court records filed in Oklahoma County,” according to Oklahoma County’s website. Ironically, both Warren and Pittman missed their deadlines for filing campaign reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, according to Nolan Clay with The Oklahoman.
While Sen. Pittman has served several years in the Oklahoma Legislature, Warren prevailed despite his status as political newcomer.