BY JOE DORMAN
In this immediate past general election, Oklahoma saw the worst voter turnout in our recorded history. This rate of 40.7% of registered voters going to the polls signaled one of the worst state levels of electoral apathy.
While this news was bad, it shows a developing trend. We need only look back one election cycle to see more concern. The U.S. Census Bureau reported of the 50 states and Washington, DC, Oklahoma ranked 49th in eligible voter turnout. Only two other states, Hawaii and West Virginia, had poorer performances.
Statistics published by Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform show voting rates for all age groups declined from 2008 to 2012 except 65 to 74 year olds. The rate of increase in this age group grew from 68.1% to 80.7%.
While that is extremely admirable, Oklahomans age 18 to 24 voted at a rate of 41% in 2008, but declined four years later to a 27% rate. This simply must improve if younger Oklahomans want to be taken seriously by elected officials.
I applaud those who consider it their duty and an obligation to vote. I still remain an optimist that Oklahoma can overcome this electoral apathy. It seems people tend to vote out of anger, fear, or a sense of civic duty. We must encourage more of the latter. We also need informed voters going to the polls.
Many Americans refuse to consider seeking an elected position, citing a frustration with the system or that they cannot make a difference. While I agree it is difficult for one person to make significant changes, our strength has always been in numbers when seeking an improvement for policies or officeholders.
If you want to initiate positive change, you can begin with your political party.
If you are a registered Republican, you need to attend upcoming county meetings. Following those, the state Republican convention will be held on Saturday, April 11. More information can be found at www.okgop.com or contact their office at 405.528.3501.
If you are a registered Democrat, the precinct meetings will be held Thursday, March 12 at different locations around the state. County conventions will be Saturday, April 11, where delegates are selected for the five district conventions to be held Saturday, May 2 and 9. The Democratic Party state convention will be held on Saturday, May 30 and details are being set. More information is located at www.okdemocrats.org or you can call their office at 405.427.3366.
Many Oklahomans choose not to join either of the two major parties. You need to contact your legislators if you would like to see ballot access reform for more opportunities in this area.
I would ask for one final request. If you are a concerned parent, educator or student, join me at the education rally set for Mar. 30 at the state Capitol. It is organized endeavors such as this where we can demand responsible, intelligent policies from our politicians as one voice.
Show up and bring a positive influence! Your voice might make the difference in shaping better policies and ending the shame we are experiencing. Be a part of the solution!
– Joe Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat, represented District 65 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for 12 years. He was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor.