A Look at Oklahoma State Questions
While much of the impetus for getting people to the polls involves the presidential election between major party candidates, there are a variety of other decisions to make when filling out the ballot.
From congressional seats to local positions, other spots are up for grabs on Nov. 8. Also up for decision are a variety of measures across the nation. In Oklahoma, there are seven state questions (SQs) on the ballots that have the potential to impact how residents of the state do business and how the government enacts legislation.
Voting on these measures is an opportunity for Oklahomans to voice their concerns to their government.
What follows is a list of the state questions with brief descriptions of each measure:
This state question pertains to the use of the death penalty. It would add a new section onto the Oklahoma Constitution, stating that all forms of execution are in effect without classification as cruel and unusual punishment. It also allows for officials to use other means of execution if officials rule another method invalid.
While the death penalty is legal in Oklahoma, all executions have been on hold since October 2015 after many executions occurred incorrectly. Proponents say that SQ 776 would help the State effectively enforce the death penalty, while opponents assert the measure works around typical checks and balances while not affecting anything already accounted for.
This measure adds a new section of law to the State Constitution protecting the rights of residents to participate in farming practices while prohibiting the Legislature from passing laws revoking this right without compelling state interest. The amendment has precedent with similar legislation in North Dakota, Missouri and California.
Supporters proclaim that the amendment would protect farmer rights, help the economy and promote free market competition. Opponents argue the measure would give larger farmers an advantage, remove voter rights and enable unethical practices regarding animals and water resources.
SQ 779 proposes the increase of the state sales tax by one percentage point, generating a predicted $615 million per year for education funding. The bill distributes 69.5 percent of funding to common school districts, just over 19 percent going to higher education, over 3 percent to career and technology education and 8 percent to the State Department of Education.
Proponents state that this initiative would help the teacher shortage and education crises in Oklahoma, citing funding cuts, rising tuition and growing enrollments. Those in opposition say this measure would put undue burden on low- and middle-income homes and increase already high taxes, arguing money for teacher raises could happen through other means.
SQs 780 and 781
These two measures work in tandem. SQ 780 would reclassify certain non-violent drug crimes and theft-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, wherein possession of a limited quality of drugs as a misdemeanor and increasing the felony threshold of property crime from $500 to $1,000. SQ 781 would allocate the savings from 780 toward rehabilitative programs.
Supporters say that passage would reduce crime by keeping those convicted of non-violent crimes out of prison and would allow those individuals to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society with addiction and mental health treatment. Opponents assert that the bills were poorly written and passage would increase crime and make enforcement more difficult.
This question would repeal Article 2, Section 5 in the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits governmental use of public money or property for the benefit of a religion or religious institution. It would not establish or endorse a religion of the state government but still allow churches to receive state funds.
Those in support say Article 2, Section 5, of the State Constitution, otherwise known as the Blaine Amendment, infringes on the rights of the public to express religiously and could make the state hostile to religion. Opponents argue that repealing the amendment would blur the separation of church and state while also reducing potential privileges churches already receive.
This measure would change laws governing the sale and distribution of alcohol, allowing grocery stores and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine seven days a week. Laws regarding licensure of sale still stand, but modifications occur allowing for sale from the previously mentioned entities.
Supporters assert that the passage of SQ 792 would allow for more competition and free-market decision making.
Opponents of the measure state that it would increase prices of beverages, increase alcohol abuse and affect local businesses adversely.