Vot­ing trends should con­cern Repub­li­cans

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

DEMOCRATS just won a long­time Repub­li­can House seat in Norman in a spe­cial elec­tion, show­ing they have the po­lit­i­cal wind at their backs in Ok­la­homa. Since April 2015, Democrats have won four of five spe­cial elec­tions in seats pre­vi­ously held by Repub­li­cans.

There are many ex­pla­na­tions for th­ese out­comes, and sev­eral bear not­ing. De­spite their large ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate, Repub­li­cans shouldn’t sim­ply shrug off the re­sults.

Raw vote to­tals are re­veal­ing. In House Dis­trict 46, Demo­crat Ja­cob Rose­crants ran in the Novem­ber 2016 gen­eral elec­tion and last week’s spe­cial elec­tion. In Novem­ber, he drew 7,201 votes and lost in a land­slide. Tues­day, he drew just 3,176 votes but won in a land­slide.

That oc­curred be­cause the num­ber of votes cast for a Repub­li­can can­di­date in the dis­trict plum­meted 81 per­cent, fall­ing from 10,988 in Novem­ber to 2,081 this time around.

In the Tulsa-based House Dis­trict 75, a re­peat Demo­cratic can­di­date sim­i­larly lost last year but won in a spe­cial elec­tion ear­lier this year. Once again, the num­ber of votes cast for the Repub­li­can can­di­date plunged, fall­ing 87 per­cent from 7,626 votes in Novem­ber to 977 this year.

Spe­cial elec­tion turnout is al­ways much lower than gen­eral elec­tion turnout, par­tic­u­larly af­ter a pres­i­den­tial race. But that doesn’t ex­plain why the de­cline in Repub­li­can votes was so steep and greater than the de­cline among Demo­cratic votes. Demo­cratic can­di­dates have won not by con­vinc­ing pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can vot­ers to switch party al­le­giance, but by sim­ply turn­ing out their hard-core sup­port­ers.

Why are so many GOP-sup­port­ing vot­ers stay­ing home? One ob­vi­ous ex­pla­na­tion is cor­rup­tion. Since 2015, five Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have re­signed in dis­grace for of­fenses that have in­cluded em­bez­zle­ment and child pros­ti­tu­tion. The fifth re­signed on the day of the Norman elec­tion af­ter be­ing charged with sex­ual bat­tery.

Ques­tions of com­pe­tence also abound. This year, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers ap­proved a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar bud­get in House com­mit­tee, shortly be­fore mid­night, with­out any law­maker hav­ing time to read the bill and with­out con­tex­tual fis­cal in­for­ma­tion to in­form their vote. A tax mea­sure passed by the Leg­is­la­ture was soon struck down as un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Con­tin­u­ing bud­get short­falls and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers’ re­sponses may have also damp­ened voter en­thu­si­asm. Some ar­gue that if Repub­li­cans only raise taxes and in­crease gov­ern­ment spend­ing, vot­ers will re­ward them. Per­haps, but a poll con­ducted this year by Cole Har­grave Sn­od­grass & As­so­ci­ates found 65 per­cent of vot­ers be­lieved the pri­mary re­sponse to the state’s short­fall should be to cut gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers did the op­po­site, ad­vanc­ing no cost-sav­ing mea­sures of any note, but propos­ing more than $1 bil­lion in tax in­creases. Is it un­rea­son­able to think some con­ser­va­tive vot­ers con­cluded there’s lit­tle rea­son to elect a Repub­li­can over a Demo­crat be­cause the pol­icy out­comes will be sim­i­lar?

The Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture must purge it­self of cor­rupt law­mak­ers, demon­strate ba­sic ca­pa­bil­ity and en­sure its mem­bers are ide­o­log­i­cally in tune with con­stituents. If not, the prob­lem of stay-ath­ome GOP vot­ers could ex­pand be­yond spe­cial elec­tions to the 2018 gen­eral elec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.