Another smooth election round
THE 1,184,355 votes cast in the governor’s race this year were the most all time for a gubernatorial election in Oklahoma. Overall, the state Election Board says, more than 56 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
And for the most part, everything went as planned. Some voters reported machines that weren’t working, but those problems were fixed quickly. (As usual, the state’s optical scanning machines generated the results quickly.) Voting at one precinct in Oklahoma City began about 30 minutes late because volunteers hadn’t been given a key to the building.
These were small potatoes compared with some parts of the country. Three-hour waits were reported in parts of Georgia. Broken ballot scanners were reported at several polling places in New York City. “There are broken scanners everywhere in Brooklyn,” a borough official lamented.
In Sarasota County, Florida, one precinct remained closed for about an hour because its ballots weren’t available. Computer problems checking in voters led to long waits in one Indiana county. Also in Indiana, a judge ordered a dozen polling places to stay open late because voting didn’t start as scheduled.
Another election has come and gone, and once again Oklahomans have reason to be pleased with the state’s voting procedures.
No truth in political advertising
State Rep. George Faught lost his re-election bid this year after being targeted by a dark money group that sought to oust conservatives. Faught, R-Muskogee, recently posted a commentary about the tenor of many campaigns, which he said are not run on “ideas, principles or deeply held convictions,” but on “vicious attacks, slander, and lies.” “How many times have we seen ‘successful businessman,’ ‘man of faith,’ ‘one of us,’ or a host of other catch phrases that we know are not true?” Faught asked. “It is surprising how many people claim to be a farmer, rancher or dairyman who has never walked through the manure, milked a cow or had to use chains to pull a calf when the cow was having an issue.” He bluntly noted there’s no “truth in advertising” guarantee in politics. Some may dismiss those comments as sour grapes, but Faught’s argument will ring true to many.
Restricting tax increases
Nationally, one interesting ballot measure decided this week was Florida’s Amendment 5, which requires the support of two-thirds of the members in each chamber of the legislature to enact new taxes or fees or increase existing ones. The measure was placed on the ballot, with bipartisan support, by Florida lawmakers. Oklahoma has a similar constitutional measure that requires three-fourths legislative support for tax increases (unless tax hikes are placed before voters), but it doesn’t apply to fee increases, unlike Florida’s Amendment 5. In Florida, a constitutional amendment must receive the support of 60 percent of voters to be adopted. Amendment 5 received nearly 66 percent support. Florida joins 15 other states with similar constitutional protections. Oklahoma’s electorate is seen as far more conservative than Florida’s voters, but it seems Oklahomans aren’t the only ones who want their lawmakers’ hands tied somewhat when it comes to raising taxes.
In most midterm elections, the party that holds the presidency loses seats in Congress. That was the case this year in the U.S. House, where Democrats flipped enough districts to regain control, although the swing was not as dramatic as what occurred under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections, respectively. But in this year’s U.S. Senate races, Republicans actually enjoyed a net increase in seats. This was in line with most predictions, but still an unusual occurrence. The last time the party in power increased its grip on the Senate in a midterm election was in 2002, when George W. Bush was near the height of his anti-terrorism popularity. After that, you have to go back to 1970 to find another example. Donald Trump’s election as president defied many political norms. It seems Senate midterm elections under Trump have done the same.
No apology requested
In the final days of this year’s political campaigns, Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live” decided to mock Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressional candidate in Texas, because Crenshaw wears an eye patch. Davidson quipped that people “may be surprised” to learn Crenshaw is a political candidate “and not a hit man in a porno movie.” Crenshaw lost his eye to an explosive while serving as a Navy SEAL. To his credit, Crenshaw said there was no need for Davidson to apologize, saying, “I want us to get away from this culture where we demand an apology every time someone misspeaks.” Crenshaw did advise Davidson that “veterans across the country probably don’t feel as though their wounds they received in battle should be the subject of a bad punch line.” The saddest thing about this affair is that Davidson and SNL apparently needed that advice.
Likability versus competence
Mark Penn, a pollster and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, notes in a column that voters had a split perception of his old boss, approving of Clinton’s job performance (“Oval Office Clinton”) and disapproving of his personal behavior (“Saturday night Clinton”). He sees similar trends with President Trump. A recent Harvard Caps/Harris Poll found 57 percent approve of the job Trump is doing on the economy (“economic Trump”); just 27 percent personally like Trump (“Twitter Trump”). Penn argues that this week’s elections showed which part of the Trump “split” motivated voters the most. This may prove true throughout the remainder of the Trump presidency. That said, good personal ratings don’t guarantee success. Penn noted former President George W. Bush was “the guy everyone wanted to have a beer with,” but his job approval still fell to the 20s and he was “labeled a war criminal and an idiot.”
How loathsome is Donald Trump for some people? Consider this example. In the national tour of “Hello, Dolly!” a lyric that includes the word “trump” has been changed out of the blue. Gregg Opelka, a musical theater composer and lyricist in Chicago, notes that in Dolly Levi’s first song, she should sing, “My aplomb at cosmetic art turned a frump to a trump lady fair” – with “trump” meaning “exemplary.” Instead, in the touring show, she sings, “My aplomb at cosmetic art turned a frump to a great lady fair.” Opelka wrote in The Wall Street Journal that, “someone decided to spare either the actress from uttering or the audience from hearing the surname of our 45th president. What other motivation could lurk behind this idiotic decision?” The answer is, there is none.