Oklahoma Politics: September 2005 Archives

Wake up, Brad!

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Today's Tulsa Whirled reports Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry's response to an initiative petition that would limit the use of eminent domain for private benefit, in response to the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. New London:

"I have great concerns with government using eminent domain powers to take property from private citizens to be used for private development," he said. "I don't think I would ever propose that, and I have great concerns with the impact of that Supreme Court decision."

Henry does not think there is any danger of state or local government relying on the decision to take property for private development.

He said he is open to ideas to prevent that, including looking into the petition being circulated.

"It sounds like it's something we need to be talking about," Henry said.

Our Governor needs to open his eyes. Oklahoma cities have been using eminent domain for private development for a long time. This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly features a current example. The University of Tulsa wants a grand entrance on 11th Street. With the Tulsa Development Authority poised to condemn the property, the owner of the building that houses Starship Records and Tapes has sold it to the University of Tulsa. Holding on to the land was not an option. If the owner refused to sell, the city would have condemned the property and sold it to TU at cost. Condemnation, or the threat of condemnation, has been used to clear homes and businesses to make way for TU's Reynolds Center and the athletic complex between Columbia and Delaware Avenues.

Starship Records isn't blighted. Neither is Wendy's or Metro Diner. Nor were the homes east of Skelly Stadium. There's no public purpose at work here -- just a private institution that wants to use its political clout to expand at the expense of those who lack that clout.

Property owners nationwide had hoped that the Supreme Court would defend our 5th Amendment rights in the Kelo v. New London decision. Since that didn't happen, it's time for action at the state and local level to stop eminent domain abuse.

Oklahoma State Sen. Tom Adelson is a freshman Democrat who represents District 33, which covers midtown and west Tulsa, and he serves on the General Government Committee. That's the committee where State Rep. Sue Tibbs' bill, requiring voters to show photo ID, is being held up.

David Sims, a BatesLine reader and a constituent of Adelson's, e-mailed the senator to encourage him to allow the full senate to vote on the bill. David posted the e-mail exchange as a comment on my entry on the bill, but to make sure no one misses it, I'm reposting it here, with a few formatting adjustments to make it easier to follow. David's introductions to each e-mail are in bold.

After reading your blog yesterday about this Voter ID bill, I decided to contact my senator (Tom Adelson, midtown Tulsa) to see what he thought of it. While looking for his email address, I found out that he is on the General Government Committee. The following has been our discussion on the matter:
September 20, 2005

Dear Senator Tom Adelson:

I am writing this email to you to ask you a question regarding the Voter ID Bill. It is my understanding that it currently “lies dormant” in the General Government Committee. Being a member of this committee, I would think that you would have a good grasp on the intention of the bill as well as why it is currently being held in your committee from a vote by the full Senate.

It is also my understanding that critics of the bill say that having to present a valid ID at the polling booths would cause long lines and additional delays for the voters. I am sorry, but I don’t think that that is a valid enough reason not to assure the validity of a person’s vote.

It is my opinion that voting is a civic responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Elections are set way in advance, so people hould be able to make plans to use their time wisely.

I understand that problems may arise that changes a person’s timetable. However, there are laws in place to give people the time that they need to go vote. Under Oklahoma Statutes §26-7-01, “Every corporation, firm, association or individual hereinafter referred to as "employer" who, on election day, has a registered voter employed or in his service, shall grant the employee two (2) hours of time during the period when the election is open in which to vote…”.

While I am not a fan of allowing people off of work with pay for personal matters, the law affords people that opportunity.

Surely, this bill makes sense in a reasonable and understandable fashion. I would like to know your position on this matter and any reasons that you have for your position. Also, please see what you can do to get this to a vote of the full Senate.

Finally, I have copied Senator Earl Garrison, Chairman of the General Government Committee, and Senator Kenneth Corn, Vice Chairman of the General Government Committee, on this email, so that they too may be allowed to state their position on this matter as well.

Thank you all, and I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

John “David” Sims
[address omitted]

P.S. Unless I hear otherwise from you, I would like to send this to the Tulsa World, Muskogee Phoenix, and Poteau Daily News so that we can inform the rest of your constituents on this matter.

Here is Senator Adelson's reply (via one of his staffers):

David -- I thinking voting integrity is of vital importance. Oklahoma is fortunate to have an accurate electronic system unlike many other states. In a closely divided race, that's a very important difference. For example, without the debacle in Florida in '00, we'd have a different President; we would have avoided the Iraq War and thousands of American casualities; we would not be in dire financial straits with record financial deficits (Remember when Republicans used to market themselves as the party of fiscal responsiblity); we would not have a President who favors amnesty, open borders, and the illegal competition from undocumented workers which lower American wages. (should I also mention fuel prices, cronyism, political corruption, graft and nepotism or is this enough)

So, I agree with you that voting matters. At this point in time, however, I don't see the need to show an I.D. Perhaps we should first investigate whether there is widespread fraud that would necessitate a slight increase in the inconvenience you mention, but I much prefer to keep voting as easy as possible.

If you feel it is important to share my response to others, please share this in its entirety.

I wasn't quite satisfied with his response, so I wrote back (replying to the staffer):

Ms. Curry:

Could you forward my thanks to Senator Adelson for taking the time to respond to my letter?

Also, could you forward my reply to his reply?

Senator Adelson:

I would prefer if we could remain on the topic of my original email. Instead of dwelling on the past, let's focus on how we can work toward the future and ensure that "debacles" (as you call them) don't happen in the future. Why not take a proactive stance on this matter and make sure that the potential for fraud is stopped before it happens?

Even if we took the time to determine whether there was fraud in the voting, other options for fraud can circumvent those determinations. Expecting someone to show their ID when voting can only help prevent the "potential" for fraud to occur.

When I voted in the 2004 general election for several positions (including your seat if I remember correctly), I waited in line and voted for all of the items at hand (almost two pages of voting) in under fifteen minutes. The funny thing was that I had my ID in hand ready to give to the person helping at the polls. I was a little shocked when I was not asked.

I really don't see what kind of delay that omeone looking at your ID can take. If someone "has to" (because it is the law) ID me because I look 25 (which has come and gone several years ago) for a beer at the convenience store, surely it would not be out of the realm of reason to expect someone to show their ID when voting. If you set the expectation that you show your ID to vote, people will understand.

In your reply, you said that you would rather keep the voting process easy. I say we take it one step further. As I have shown and explained, would it not be just as simple to keep the process easy AND valid by requiring that a voter show their ID? I think so.

You did not address my question as to whether this would be voted on in the full Senate. While both you and I are entitled to our opinion, why not allow you and your fellow senators the opportunity to make a decision that the people of Oklahoma voted for each and every senator to make for their constituents? Will there be a full vote before the full Senate?

Again, I am going to copy Senator Garrison and Senator Corn on this email and ask them for their reply in this matter.

Again, thank you for taking the time to discuss this matter with me, and I look forward to hearing from everyone and seeing a vote of the full Senate on this matter.

David Sims

Late last night I got this reply from a Yahoo Account with the screen name Tom Adelson, but a different actual address:

David -- Committee chairs hear bills at their discretion. There are over 2,000 bills filed in the Senate. Obviously, it's an important housekeeping matter to limit the number of bills heard on the Senate Floor. Senator Garrison can decide not to hear a bill for a number of reasons. I haven't visited with him about this one but will ask. In any event, I doubt he would hear the bill without first determining the extent of alleged voter fraud. You cannot show up and vote at any precinct. You may only vote in the precinct coordinated with the address listed on your registration. So, if one wanted to "cheat," you would show up and pretend to be someone else. You'd have to know who that someone else is. You'd have to know whether that voter is a likely voter or a dormant voter. You could not show up that many times at the same precinct to vote without being caught. It would take a number of people to carry out widespread fraud. If you want to commit fraud, there are more effective ways to do it. For example, absentee voting is an area perhaps worthy of attention. I haven't seen any evidence of problems with "voter identity theft" and so I don't see the need to require ID cards. With regard to your own voting experience, it's unusual. 72% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats (rough estimates both) vote straight ticket. Regards, Tom

I wonder if I need to hold my breath for replies from Senator Garrison and Senator Corn?

It's strange that Adelson took the occasion of the e-mail to indulge in a little Bush-bashing, and I'm puzzled by the reference to straight-party voting, which I don't see mentioned in David's messages.

Setting that aside, the voter fraud scenario which Adelson sets out and dismisses is precisely what many political observers believe has happened. For $35 you can buy a diskette from the state election board listing every registered voter in a State Senate district. For $150 you can buy a CD-ROM with voter data for the entire state. That data includes the list of elections over the last four years in which the voter has voted, and for each election, it shows whether the vote was cast in person, by absentee ballot, in early voting at the election board, or by some other method. With that information you could easily determine who would be unlikely to appear at a given precinct. A special-interest group could take a team of 30 people and assign each one a name to vote under in each of the 30 or so precincts in a state senate district -- that's 900 fraudulent votes for the group's chosen candidate, or about 3% of the total vote, enough to make the difference in a closely-divided district. In a smaller district, in a special election, or in a primary, the numbers required to make a difference would be even smaller.

Of all the potential avenues for voter fraud, this is one that would be easy and inexpensive to block. Why not?

State Rep. Sue Tibbs is trying to get her voter ID bill heard in the Democrat-controlled Oklahoma Senate, where it has been allowed to languish in the General Government Committee. The bill would require voters to show a driver's license or some other state-issued photo ID. Isn't this an obvious and sensible measure? Don't we want to make sure that only people who are eligible -- those who live in the appropriate district, city, or state -- cast a vote, and that they only vote once? Why do Democrats have such a problem with this?

UPDATE: McGehee comments on a federal lawsuit targeting Georgia's voter identification law. The plaintiffs are claiming the photo ID requirement amounts to an illegal poll tax and is unfair to black, elderly, and rural voters. McGehee says the cost of a Georgia driver's license or photo ID works out to about $3 an election, not counting runoffs and special elections, and ignoring the fact that photo ID is needed for plenty of other occasions. (Via Charles G. Hill.)

With about half of the precincts reporting, the fuel tax increase is failing by a 6 to 1 margin.

In the race to replace State Sen. Angela Monson (District 48, Oklahoma City), Connie Johnson leads with 31%, while Mike Shelton and Willa Johnson are separated by only 11 votes with about 27% each. This looks like one of those races where a two-candidate runoff could fail to produce the candidate that would be preferred by a majority in a head-to-head vote. With the top three candidates so close together, and a sizeable number voting for the 4th and 5th place candidates, it is not even possible to know which two of the top three would finish first and second if only those three were in the race. (This is a primary, but because no Republicans filed for the seat, the Democrat nominee will be elected.)

You'll find the election board vote tally here.

Vote today!

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Oklahomans go to the polls today for SQ 723, the proposed fuel tax hike. Don't forget to vote!

No on SQ 723


Just in case you have any doubts, on Tuesday, I will be voting against an increase in the state gasoline tax (SQ 723). The maintenance of roads and bridges basic necessities is a basic function of state government, and it ought to be one of the first functions to be funded out of the money our state government already receives.

Bobby at Tulsa Topics has been keeping a close watch on this issue. In response to the question, "If not SQ 723, then what?" Bobby has posted recommendations from Tom Elmore. The trucking industry won't care much for his ideas, because he doesn't think commercial freight trucks are paying their fair share for the damage they inflict on our infrastructure.

Joe Kelley caught the tax backers in a bit of spin a while back. You can read his entries on the topic here and here.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from September 2005.

Oklahoma Politics: August 2005 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: October 2005 is the next archive.

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