Sunday, December 3, 2023

Substance has been sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

      On November 1st, Governor Kevin Stitt issued an Executive Order(EO) that created the Campaign Finance and Election Threats Task Force (CFETTF).   The task force is charged with (1) identifying ways that Oklahoma is leading the nation in election security, (2) identify campaign finance loopholes that need to be addressed, and (3) recommend legislation to curtail any interference in Oklahoma politics by domestic or foreign entities.  “I’m proud to report that Oklahoma is a national leader in election integrity.  But we must not rest on our laurels.  Instead, we must ensure that our election and political processes are not tainted by other government investment and interference,” Stitt said.    

     The CFETTF will have nine members: (1) the Chair appointed by the governor, (2) the Secretary of the State Election Board, (3) the Secretary of State, (4) a county election board member from a large county, (5) a county election board member  from a small county,(6) Speaker of the House, (7) President Pro Tempore of the state Senate, (8-9) two at large members appointed by governor.  Two weeks ago Stitt announced he had appointed Anthony J. Ferate to chair the CFETTF.  Ferate served as the long-time general counsel to the Oklahoma Republican Party and a short stint as Chairman of the OKGOP.  Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma’s voting processes are not bad.  The state uses a uniform election system.  Oklahoma voters cast their ballot the same way in every county.  Each of the 77 counties follow the same voting procedures, use the same security protocols and use the same type of voting device.  It’s not that way in other states.  In most of the states where voting irregularities occur, continuity in processes is non-existent.  Decisions on what procedures and voting devices are used are made at the county level.  No so in the Sooner state.  

     Every county in Oklahoma uses an optical scan voting device that provides an auditable, verifiable paper ballot.  The devise cannot be connected to the internet.  State statutes requires ballots be secured by the local county sheriff and a strict chain of custody maintained through the certification of the election. 

     Second, auditing the current system is a good idea.  No voting system is perfect, because there is no perfect human.  Someone determined to lie and cheat to illegally vote is hard to stop.  That doesn’t mean Oklahoma election officials shouldn’t try.  Election integrity in the state can/should be improved. 

     In the 2020 general election, a family member of a Comanche County retired state legislator sent in an absentee ballot to the local county election board for the lawmaker after their death.  Clearly that was dishonest, unethical, and illegal.  It wasn’t an accident.  The family member was trying to cheat.  Thankfully, they were caught.  Cheating happens and improving processes and procedures should be a priority for the CFETTF.

      Third, the CFETTF should address dark money.   As long as special interests can fund dark money campaigns anonymously in Oklahoma, election integrity is at risk.  Dark money groups have accelerated in growth in recent state elections.  They spread lies, misinformation and buy elections candidates/elected officials with no accountability.  Cloaking freedom of speech with incognito political hit pieces is un American.  Voters have the right to know who is funding the dark money campaigns, just as the donors have a right to fund the campaigns.  Until light is shined into darkness, Oklahoma voters should ignore a dark money campaign message. 

     Stitt’s choice of Ferate to chair the CFETTF is a good one.  He understands the state’s voting systems and the dark money issue.  But he will have those who will oppose his leading the CFETTF because Ferate has been involved in politics longer than a year.  Those same naysayers will criticize him for parting his non-existent hair on the wrong side of his head. Karl Marx called it ‘critical criticism’- defined as ‘criticism for the sake of criticism.’    In modern politics, unfortunately substance/competence/experience has been sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism.


1 comment:

James L. said...

Interesting piece you've posted, Steve. You seem to agree with Stitt that this legislation will be good for our state. Three questions:

First, can you compare and contrast the differences between Oklahoma's "not bad" voting system and the systems used in less uniform states that are considered to have more irregularities in their processes?

Second, if our voting system is susceptible to fraud as you mentioned, how frequently does it occur in our state?

Third, you wrote much about dark money in campaigns, but what is dark money? To a casual reader, dark money may sound like anything and everything scary. It has to be more than that, right?

Overall, you did a fine job writing this, but your brevity leaves the reader lacking context to what you're really talking about. This is high school-level writing at best.