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Voter ID: The Landscape for 2009

As we noted in the Dispatch a couple weeks ago, despite a dearth of recent successes and mounting fiscal crises in most states, rightwing voter ID legislation designed to suppress voter turnout continues to be pressed around the country.  So far this year at least 17 states have seen bills introduced to institute or enhance ID requirements for voting or registration (AL, CO, GA, IN, MD, MN, MS, MO, NY, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WY).  It appears we now know enough to predict the landscape of the voter ID battles in this legislative session.

Reforming the Ballot Initiative Process: Making Direct Democracy Work

Direct democracy through popular intiatives and referenda began a century ago as a grassroots, progressive reform aimed at circumventing corrupt legislatures and increasing civic involvement.  The long history of this reform indicates that in the whole this experiment in direct popular participation in the legislative process has been successful as an avenue for passing populist policies that maintains the favor of the public over time.  However, throughout this history there have also been attempts, sometimes successful, to manipulate the process and the electorate into passing legislation that would not garner majority support had voters possessed an accurate conception of its content and effect. 

Helping Poor and Working Families Build Financial Assets

By one estimate, the federal government spent over $367 billion in 2005 aloneon subsidizing Americans' retirement savings and tax breaks to build upother assets like buying a home.  Unfortunately, those subsidies gooverwhelmingly to those Americans who already have high-incomes; almostnone of it goes to the poorest Americans who need the most helpbuilding the financial assets that can lead to long-term economicopportunities and security.

2008 Session Roundups: Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Legislature adjourned late Friday, May 23, a week earlier than constitutionally-mandated.  Lawmakers closed the session with an agreement on a $7.1 billion state budget for the next fiscal year.  Overall the short 16 week session led to a mix bag of results.

Voter Identification Laws: The Specter of Fraud Helps the Right Wing Shape the Electorate

Since the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) established the requirement that first time voters present some form of identification before voting in a federal election, voter identification requirements of all sorts have been enacted across the country.  Currently 26 states have laws that are more restrictive than the HAVA mandate, and 21 states require ID from voters every time they vote.  These laws have been passed by arguing they are necessary to prevent voter fraud, even though all evidence suggests that such fraud is extremely rare and poses no threat to the integrity of our voting systems.  Instead, these fraud arguments have merely been a partisan tool, used for decades, to suppress turnout among new groups entering the electorate in large numbers and threatening the power of those currently in charge, whether they be minorities, immigrants or students.

The Right-Wing Assault on University Campuses

Right-wing interests have been mounting a political assault on university professors they do not like, led by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), which is promoting so-called "Intellectual Diversity" (ID) Legislation in various states across the country. The concept was pioneered by right-wing activist David Horowitz (see this profile site for more on Horowitz).  

New Jersey Raises Standards for Hate Crimes and Safe Schools Laws

With only 10 dissenting votes, the New Jersey Legislature has made the state's hate crimes and anti-bullying laws two of the strongest in the country. S2975 is notable for its unequivocal inclusion of transgender people in the state's hate crimes law, becoming the 12th state to do so, and for stronger anti-bullying measures in its safe schools law.