Left to the Wayside: The Sooner State

Posted by Theodore Landsman on November 08, 2016

In the last hours of election day,  frenetic candidates, surrogates, campaign staff, and activists across the country worked tirelessly in an effort to turnout as many voters for their party as possible. They were driven by an intensely negative and captivating campaign, featuring two of the most deeply polarizing candidates in our nation's history. Adscititious factors driving workers included the notion that the winner of this election will signal an answer to the existential question of what kind of country America wants to be. They were also motivated by the knowledge that in toss up states like Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada, every vote will make a difference.

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However, in states like Oklahoma, where some of the most fervent partisans reside, there was very little of this energy and excitement. The results of the congressional elections have more or less been known since the Republican primaries in late June. Early results indicate that Oklahoma voted for Trump by 66% to 28%, it re-elected its Republican Senator by 69% to 24% (the other Senator is also a Republican), and it re-elected all five of its incumbent Republican congressmen. This means more than just a lack of attention from the candidates (neither presidential or vice-presidential candidate stopped in Oklahoma during the general election campaign), it has also contributed to some of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation.

This is not to say that all Oklahomans are Republicans, or that they all agree on who should serve them. While there are some seats that are so safe Republicans run unopposed, Democrats regularly win about a third of the vote at the presidential level and a fourth of the vote at the congressional level. With five congressional races, we would expect at least one of them to go blue given the statewide presidential vote, but in fact none of Oklahoma’s districts has elected a Democrat since 2010, and only two Democrats have won congressional races in Oklahoma since 1996.

There are a number of ways Oklahomans can make their votes more meaningful: Ranked choice voting would allow liberal voters to vote their conscience while still supporting more electable moderates, proportional representation would give Oklahomans a congressional delegation with the same diversity of views as the state, but the most attainable and one of the most impactful reforms would be signing on to the National Popular Vote plan.

The National Popular Vote plan would incentivize candidates to campaign in all states-including states that are currently not competitive under the electoral college system, like Oklahoma, and make elections more meaningful. More meaningful elections could boost turnout and even incentivize national politicians to appeal more to Oklahomans on local and national issues that are important to them. It could even mean more federal disaster relief for the tornados that plague the state. A more meaningful vote at the federal level could also re-energize state Democrats, creating more competition for offices in ways that ultimately benefit the whole electorate.
For more information, check out our campaign stop tracker, our Monopoly Politics state page for Oklahoma, and our Executive Director Rob Richie’s interview on CBS news. For information on how states are coming together to achieve a reform solution, visit National Popular Vote and check out FairVote’s innovations for moving America to a national popular vote system.
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