Archive for Soonerland

How low can you go?

I just have a feeling that this chap is not exactly bound for Limbo, if you know what I mean and I think you do:

A Bryan County man arrested for embezzling money from the Durant Kids Baseball League was arraigned Tuesday.

Police say Justin Alberda embezzled over $14,000 from the little league, spending the money on vacations to Las Vegas and Branson, Mo. as well as online shopping.

Court records state Alberda was using the money on Amazon, Sam’s Club, Auto Body Shops and restaurants among other places.

Police reports say Alberda borrowed money from the league, with plans to pay it back with entree fees for tournaments he wanted to host. However, Alberda says the tournaments never made enough money to pay back what he borrowed.

They charge fees for entrees now? Damn.

(Pointed out to me by Fillyjonk.)

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These circles aren’t lazy

It took a couple of bars for it to sink in that Ado Annie was in a wheelchair, and a couple more to realize that it didn’t make one bit of difference:

Oklahoma! never won a Tony Award, for the simple reason that the Tonys didn’t exist back in 1943. (It won a Tony in 2019, last week in fact, for Best Revival of a Musical.) And I learned the songs before ever living here, by dint of having somehow inherited the 1943 original-cast album — on 78s, of course. (Decca Black Label, as I recall.)

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Strictly noncommercial

Frank Zappa’s last public appearance, back in 1992:

If your first thought is “Damn, I wish I could hear that live,” you’ll be pleased to know that this very piece will open the Oklahoma City Philharmonic program on the 11th of January, along with the First Violin Concerto by Philip Glass, featuring violinist Jennifer Loh, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major.

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Water log

You have to wonder if he’s ever seen this much water:

Following President Trump’s declared state of emergency for Tulsa, Wagoner, and Muskogee Counties, Vice President Mike Pence will be coming to Tulsa on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) and Vice President Mike Pence will be touring flood damage.

There’s lots to see in Tulsa, but it’s even more fun when it’s dry.

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Schlock around the block

Now here in Oklahoma, we don’t wait around for giant boulders to take out a roadway. We just turn on the Spigot in the Sky and watch as the ground gives way.

Sinkhole in Blackburn Oklahoma 5/29/19

This happened Wednesday in Blackburn, a town of 100 or so on the Arkansas River in Pawnee County. The driver was apparently in a hurry, and drove around not one but two barricades to get to the sinkhole. Said driver was bruised a bit but will live. The scary part: there was a dog crate in the truck bed, and yes, it contained a dog. (Dog got damp but is otherwise okay.)

This incident should at least get a (Dis)Honorable Mention from the Darwin Awards.

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Your basic 75-year flood

I’ve already grumbled about the tornado that buzzcut its way across town Friday night, but no matter how bad things get, they’re always worse somewhere else.

Here’s somewhere else:

Flood depth at the Arkansas River near Muskogee

That record goes back to 1943. I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that after ten days in or near flood, the Arkansas River is within two feet of the record for this area, or that it’s going to be well into June before it drops below flood stage.

(Track this gauge here.)

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Let’s rob someone with no money

Oklahoma City Public Schools find themsekves beset by computer vandals of the shoddiest kind:

Oklahoma City Public Schools on Tuesday continued to deal with a ransomware attack that “significantly compromised” the district’s computer network, officials said.

The state’s largest school district, however, provided few details in a late afternoon statement, issued 24 hours after the malware attack was reported publicly.

“OKCPS continues to address the recent ransomware attack,” spokeswoman Arely Martin said in a statement. “We are grateful to our staff for their flexibility and for continuing to put students first as our IT Services Teams work with our third-party experts to resolve the issue.”

Martin said the district will provide updates when “we have significant progress to report.”

This could take a while. And I’d hate to be the person who allowed that infection into the network in the first place; it’s not at all hard to imagine that person getting a set of walking papers. (Heck, we once sacked someone for setting up a LimeWire connection at the shop.)

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The post-Gaylord era

E. K. Gaylord thought it was important for you to know what he thought about things, so the editorial page of the Oklahoman was kept sprucely maintained, even if some of the attitudes seemed to date to the 19th century or before. (Edward King Gaylord was born in 1873, and while he wasn’t the guy who actually founded the paper, he was the guy who kept it coming to your porch every day until 1974, on a day when he went to work and never made it home again.)

But those days are pretty much gone. Kelly Dyer Fry told us after the GateHouse takeover that cutbacks were inevitable, and she wasn’t kidding; I didn’t actually go out and find a newsstand copy to verify, but both Print Replica and PDF versions today were utterly devoid of editorials. The Opinion page was more conspicuous than usual, simply by its absence.

The Opinion page on NewsOK.com was at its usual level of activity. There is, though, a column of Featured Links off to the side, and the first item in that column is “THE OKLAHOMAN: See all recent editorials.” I hit it, and got 404ed. I’d estimate that 404 is also the rotational speed of Ed Gaylord, six feet beneath the surface of the planet.

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Be sure to see Room 101

Tucked into yesterday’s real-estate section:

Using the Orwell floor plan

We have always lived in east Edmond.

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Like four hours is tolerable

And though he’s not really ill, there’s a little bluish pill:

A former Oklahoma inmate who filed a $5 million lawsuit accusing jail authorities of refusing him treatment for a painful erection that lasted four days might be about to settle.

Court records show a settlement conference is set for May 7 in the lawsuit filed by 33-year-old Dustin Lance against the current and the former Pittsburg County sheriff, the county and others. If an agreement isn’t reached, trial is to begin July 9.

Lance was in the county jail about 130 miles (210 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City on burglary and drug charges on Dec. 16, 2016, when he says he took a pill provided by another inmate that led to the condition.

The lawsuit says Lance was denied medical care until Dec. 19. The defendants deny the allegation.

Hard to argue with TLO’s Patrick:

I’ve never been to jail, so I don’t know what the customs are, but I’d probably pass on taking a little blue pill offered to me by another inmate, especially on my first night.

Consider that a hard pass.

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Going like eighty

At least some of the time, anyway:

Don’t hold your breath waiting:

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a bill that would allow the governing bodies of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and Oklahoma Department of Transportation to increase speeds on some roadways.

The Transportation Commission could increase maximum speeds to 75 mph from 70 mph after a traffic or engineering study, according to House Bill 1071, by Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton. The measure applies to rural segments of the interstate highway system.

The measure would allow the Turnpike Authority to raise maximum speeds to 80 mph from 75 mph.

“No matter what, you are not going to see 80 mile per hour speed limit signs tomorrow,” said Jack Damrill, Turnpike Authority spokesman.

When the signs do go up, the motorists who were already doing 85 will start pushing 90.

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Coming soon to a ballot near you

The Secretary of State has accepted for filing a ballot initiative which would expand Medicaid coverage in this state:

Attorneys with Crowe & Dunlevy today filed a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative Friday on behalf of two Oklahomans, one from Tulsa and one from Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers’ office posted the seven-page filing online [pdf] and distinguished it as State Question 802. The ballot initiative would make a change to the Oklahoma Constitution, thus requiring 177,958 signatures for it to make the ballot. Signature collection would extend for 90 days after any challenges have been resolved or addressed.

The money quote:

This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution. The new Article would expand Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to include certain low-income adults between the ages of 18 and 65 whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level, as permitted under the federal Medicaid laws.

Several states have already done this in response to the ACA; Oklahoma balked because the potential costs seemed daunting. Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, in an email received here:

Rather than spend Good Friday contemplating one of the most consequential events in history, as most Oklahomans did, expansion supporters engaged in a political stunt. The petition is meant to bluff state lawmakers into passing an expansion program they know is a bad idea. Lawmakers should stick with their gut and continue opposing this plan. The Obamacare Medicaid proposal is a massive expansion of welfare that will add 628,000 able-bodied adults to Oklahoma’s welfare rolls and could put working families on the hook for a state share of $374 million annually.

Make no mistake, expanding Obamacare in Oklahoma will result in the state seeing the same problems as every other state that has gone down this path. Enrollment levels will be far higher than what expansion supporters predict, at significantly higher costs, to achieve significantly lower outcomes than promised. If you doubt it, just look at states comparable to Oklahoma that expanded Medicaid. Cost overruns in Arkansas have topped $1.4 billion, and Kentucky’s ranking on health outcomes remains low, despite Kentucky spending far more taxpayer money on Medicaid.

Expensive stuff, health care. Still, I’ll probably sign the petition when it’s presented to me, simply because if we’re going to do something like this, it would be nice to have the electorate sign off on it.

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Presumably at a low rate of speed

Zombies, according to everything I’ve read, just aren’t all that fast, which makes this story just a tiny bit less implausible:

According to a police report, a man called 911 Tuesday morning to report that a woman had jumped into his truck, locked the doors, and was attempting to drive away. The truck, carrying Sparkletts water bottles and jugs, was parked outside a Walmart in Sapulpa, a Tulsa suburb.

The suspect, identified by cops as Tamanda Billings, 27, reportedly told driver Devonte Harris that she needed his wheels to flee zombies. Harris, who was delivering an order to Walmart, said that when he asked Billings to get out of his truck, she replied, “No, there are Zombies after me.”

But Billings, a mother of two young children, had her escape from the undead stymied when she could not get the Freightliner truck moving. Cops responding to the 911 call eventually had to break the vehicle’s window to remove Billings from the cab.

Oh, and just one more thing:

Billings was charged with auto theft, trespass, and receiving stolen property. She was arrested hours after bonding out of the county jail following an April 6 bust for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Hayley at TLO observes:

Like my niece’s $60 toys that never include batteries and Walmart only having one checkout lane open at a time, it can readily be assumed that methamphetamine played a “contributing factor” in Ms. Billings’ zombie escape plan. The meth may not have been allowing her to think clearly by sober people standards. But you have to admit, on meth she has the perfect rationale, guts, and problem-solving ability to survive the zombie apocalypse.

Yep. Says it all.

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Spirited douchery

You might expect this sort of thing from a seven-year-old. But from a state senator?

One morning back in February, Paul Scott tippy-toed into the Senate before session and unscrewed a roller on Carri Hicks’s chair. He also hid her microphone. There’s no word on if he put tape under her mouse, or encased her stapler in Jell-O.

Later that morning, when Hicks arrived for work and attempted to take her seat, the chair gave way, causing Carri to fall to the floor. Startled, confused and hoping she didn’t just flash the world in her dress, she left the Senate chambers to compose herself like a Bachelor contestant who learned she didn’t receive a rose.

Usually, after playing a stupid prank like that, the culprit will come forward, help the victim laugh it off, and then everyone will go play on the big toy at recess. As least that’s how things worked when I was in elementary school.

Paul Scott, on the other hand, does things a little differently. As opposed to admitting that he committed the prank, or even (gasp!) apologizing, he went silent and didn’t fess up. Classy, huh?

The Senate, not unreasonably, launched an investigation, and yes, they had the whole incident on video; Scott, on the spot, issued an apology with about as much sincerity as y0u’d think.

District 43 is stuck with Scott through next year. Let’s hope the opposition takes note of this.

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Fund us, please

Apparently OG&E doesn’t think an insert in the monthly bill is sufficient warning to the customers, so I got this in email:

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (“OG&E” or “Company”) is seeking an annual increase of approximately $76.6 million, which reflects a 4.4% increase over rates set in July of 2018, to recover increased business costs and electric infrastructure investments including costs associated with the Sooner Scrubber and the Muskogee Conversion projects.

The increase, as proposed by OG&E, would raise a residential customer’s bill by approximately 7.7% when compared to current rates. This equals about $7.55 per month on the average residential customer bill. As proposed by OG&E, General Service customers would receive a rate increase of 4.4%. For the industrial rate classes both Power and Light customers (PL) and Large Power and Light customers (LPL) would receive rate increases ranging from 4.6% to 9.8%.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (“Commission”) is scheduled to begin hearings before an Administrative Law Judge on OG&E’s request for a rate increase on May 29, 2019, at 8:30 a.m., and continuing each business day thereafter until the hearing concludes, in Courtroom 301 on the 3rd floor of the Jim Thorpe Office Building, 2101 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105. After the hearing, the Commission will issue its final order and any rate changes will become effective after the final decision is issued.

The only really bothersome aspect of this is the timing: if the hearing is right after Memorial Day, the increase, or whatever percentage the Corp Comm allows, will hit in mid-summer.

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Dead guy loses election

It wasn’t quite a landslide, though:

In Edmond, voters chose to elect Dan O’Neil as their next mayor. On the ballot, O’Neil faced off against deceased mayor Charles Lamb.

Lamb, who died in December at age 72, had filed for another term shortly before his death. His candidacy was promoted by some Edmond residents who opposed other candidates for mayor, with the hope that if he was re-elected, the city council would pick his successor.

O’Neil garnered 4,385 votes, or 67.01%, while Lamb had 2,159 votes, or 32.99%, according to unofficial results.

The late Mr. Lamb’s showing was better than the last dead candidate I recall, circa 1998:

Remember this name: Jacqueline Morrow Lewis Ledgerwood.

The estimable Ms Ledgerwood filed in July to become a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, hoping to unseat Senator Don Nickles (R-Okla.), the three-term incumbent. To borrow a line from an earlier, more famous, candidate, if nominated she will not run, and if elected she will not serve. The reason for this is simple: she’s dead.

Ms Ledgerwood, it seems, died soon after filing for the office, but not soon enough to meet the deadline for having her name removed from the ballot. So in the Democratic primary on the 25th of August, her name appeared alongside the names of three other wannabes. A chap named Don Carroll garnered about 46 percent of the votes, not enough for a majority, so the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff on the 15th of September — Mr Carroll and the late Ms Ledgerwood, who bagged about 21 percent. Jerry Kobyluk, who finished third, complained loudly and bitterly, but the secretary of the state Election Board would not be moved.

In the general election in November, Nickles won 76 of 77 counties. Haskell County, in the east, is generally reliably Democratic, to the extent that any part of Oklahoma is reliably Democratic; its voters, about three-fifths Democratic, backed the Democratic presidential candidate every year from 1976 through 2000.

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Fark blurb of the week

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A formidable Scrabble player

Well, I don’t actually know that she’s a formidable Scrabble player, but she’s already demonstrated one of the core competencies for the game: she can spell.

Rachel Hamilton is a fourth-grader from Pauls Valley, an hour south of this desk. She attends Whitebead Elementary, a rural school about two miles out of town. (Whitebead is what we call a Dependent School District, mostly because it offers no high-school curriculum; the nearest high school is in Pauls Valley proper.) And she won the Central Oklahoma Spelling Bee on the 16th of March, beating out 25,000 competitors; she’ll go on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins on Memorial Day.

Spelling seems to run in the family: brother Luke placed second in 2016, and her dad won in 1978.

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Poor immigrant

This actually showed up on Quora yesterday: What are the things I need to get to have a 100% assurance that I’ll be given a visa to Oklahoma?

The proper way to handle this, I suggest, is complete and utter deadpan, and that’s what happened here:

The best thing to do would be to contact the Oklahoma embassy to request a visa be expedited. Include the arrival and departure dates and where you intend to stay during your visit. Applications for an Oklahoma visa may only be made in person, at the Oklahoma embassy in your country.

Be aware that Oklahoma only issues a limited number of visas every year so requesting your visa from the Oklahoma embassy should be done before third quarter of the year.

You’ll know the Oklahoma embassy when you see it: directly under the flag, there’s a second one, with a stylized chicken-fried steak.

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A close but slow shave

Twelve-year term limits? Maybe it should have been eight. Or six.

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Tilt that axis!

And this is what you, or we anyway, get:

Oklahoma 11-season climate

(Via Edmond Active.)

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Pae as you go

It’s as least as silly as “Carpae Diem,” the slogan which appears on Rep. Daniel Pae’s LinkedIn paege. The freshman legislator, a Lawton Republican, is known mostly for this session’s House Bill 1071 [pdf], which scoots the speed limit on rural toll roads up to 80 mph.

“Hot damn,” says Hayley at TLO:

Now instead of puttering along at a slow and steady 75-mph, Oklahomans may soon be able to cruise at a cool 80 on the turnpike. Oh, who am I kidding. Everyone already takes a 75-mph speed limit as permission to travel at least 80, if not 85. But whatever lets me legally shave 7-12 minutes off of a trip to Tulsa to actually see a non-country musician perform in concert is fine with me.

Should this measure be enacted, and frankly I can’t imagine Governor Stitt not signing it, the effective date, typically for new Oklahoma laws, will be the first of November.

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The buck stopped there

I mean, this can get you in serious trouble:

Game warden Cannon Harrison probably wasn’t expecting to make his latest bust on a dating app. But that’s what happened after he matched with an Oklahoma woman on Bumble.

As they struck up an online conversation, the woman immediately shared that she had just killed a “bigo” buck — “obviously not knowing Cannon is a game warden,” wrote the Oklahoma Game Wardens in a Facebook post.

Uh-oh.

Harrison asked if she had shot the deer with a bow, as bow hunting is still legal in Oklahoma through mid-January. She said she didn’t want to discuss that, but Harrison innocently pressed further, prompting his match to reveal the details. She shared with him the location where she killed the deer and sent him several photos of the dead animal, including one in which she can be seen holding up its antlers.

In the process, the woman, whose name was not released, revealed to Harrison that she had committed two illegal acts — shooting the deer with a rifle outside of rifle season and using a spotlight at night to help her shoot the deer.

And from there, it got worse:

Oklahoma Game Wardens went to the property the next day. Further investigation showed the woman had committed a third illegal act — harvesting only the head and back-strap meat of the animal. The woman and an accomplice pleaded guilty and paid $2,400 in fines, according to the Tulsa World.

A “romantically challenged poacher,” quipped Peter Grant.

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Seven decades ago

I found this in an old copy of Broadcasting magazine, from 1947. There were a lot of ads like this at the time:

Advertise on KTUL and KOMA

At the time, both these stations were owned by John Toole Griffin and family, who also owned Griffin Grocery Company in Muskogee. Both those sets of call letters have migrated a bit, KOMA across the dial to the FM band, and KTUL to a Tulsa television station.

And in the 1960s, both stations were local Top 40 powerhouses, something that couldn’t even have been imagined in 1947. (KTUL had already transformed into KELI.) The Griffins own a cluster of stations in Tulsa, but not this one, which was acquired by Clear Channel Communications, later rebranded as iHeartRadio. KTBZ, the current call (1430 The Buzz) has run some sort of sports format for two decades, and has gotten a daytime power boost to 25 kw. KOKC, still a corporate sister to KOMA, runs news/talk on its 50 kw blowtorch, owned by Tyler Media, based right here in the 405. (Come to think of it, when the current telephone area-code system went into effect in the late 1940s, the whole state was “the 405.”

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An auspicious beginning

I really wasn’t expecting the Legislature to accomplish a great deal in the next session. But I find this action heartening:

Casey Murdock, a Republican from Felt, at the far end of the Panhandle, is a, um, er, rancher.

And should this pass, I assure you that I’m not going to burn them to a crisp just because Donald Trump likes them that way.

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The sky gods know where you live

PJR has moved to Oregon, but you never really put Oklahoma behind you:

Redbird Smith is, of course, named for Redbird Smith (1850-1918), one of the strongest voices for Cherokee traditions and against the “reforms” of the Dawes Commission.

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Mood indigo

When I moved over here fifteen years ago, you’d have been able to characterize this area as center-right and leaning Republican. Redistricting came after 2010, and suddenly it was a virtually-even split. Precinct-level numbers for 2018 indicate Vastly Increased Blueness, as follows:

Governor: Edmondson (D) 836; Stitt (R) 375; Powell (L) 40.

Lt Governor: Pittman (D) 699; Pinnell (R) 467; Holmes (L) 79.

Attorney General: Myles (D) 737; Hunter (R) 504.

Congress District 5: Horn (D) 815, Russell (R) 430.

State Senate District 40: Hicks (D) 819; Howell (R) 379; Hensley (I) 43.

County Commissioner District 1: Blumert (D) 804; Reeves (R) 421.

The first three, all statewide races, were won by the GOP, but Democrats took the remainder. (There was no race for State House District 87; incumbent Collin Walke (D) drew no opposition.)

And that Congressional race was legitimately a squeaker: winner Kendra Horn pulled in 50.7 percent, a difference of about 3300 out of 238,000. She’s the first Democrat to represent District 5 since John Jarman switched to the GOP after the 1974 election.

Disclosure: I had a yard sign for Carri Hicks.

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Working the clichés

Newly elected Oklahoma County District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert had to put up with several iterations of this same script:

Which is not to say that only men caused her to raise an eyebrow:

And she had to knock on a lot of doors. Under the commissioner system, each county gets exactly three commissioners; each of them, in this county, has to cover an area home to a quarter-million people. (No State House or Senate member has as large a constituency.) Yes, we voted for her.

Carrie Blumert making the rounds

And yeah, we’d do it again.

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As I picked them

Without going into too much detail over what is, after all, a secret ballot, I will reveal the following facts:

  • I voted down all five state questions.
  • In general, if there was a woman running for a seat, I voted for her over whichever guys made it to the ballot, mostly because I’ve seen most of these guys before.
  • I could work up no enthusiasm for either of the two major-party men running for Governor, opting instead for the Libertarian.

This is the Libertarian in question:

And I should mention here that while I have no particular quarrel with incumbent Congressman Steve Russell, I vowed on the day of the primary that I would vote for Democratic challenger Kendra Horn, who did a great service to the state by sparing us the indignity of yet another uninspiring, and inevitably losing, campaign by Tom Guild, the state’s closest equivalent to Harold Stassen.

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Speed is of the essence

Last weekend, I felt sufficiently drained to figure that maybe I’m not up to standing in line for a long, long time, which, not at all incidentally, has been more or less true for the last couple of years. Accordingly, I duly hit up the Oklahoma State Election Board Web site and requested an absentee ballot. They processed the request on Monday; the ballot was delivered on Wednesday.

Thursday around noon, I dropped the completed ballot in the mail.

Friday evening, I got a text message:

Hey Charles, it’s Erica with the OK Democrats. According to state records, you have not returned your mail ballot yet. Since it must be notarized and received by Election Day, can you put it in the mail tonight?

Only two weird aspects of this:

  • The call was apparently placed from a Tulsa (area code 539) number. State Democratic HQ is just down the road from me, at 36th and Classen in OKC.
  • Per the Election Board: “Physically incapacitated voters and voters who care for physically incapacitated persons who cannot be left alone are not required to have their signatures on the absentee affidavits notarized. They are required to have their signatures witnessed by two people.”

As of 5 pm Friday, the state reported the receipt of 17,179 mail ballots from Oklahoma County: 8278 from registered Republicans, 7718 from registered Democrats, 56 from registered Libertarians, and 1667 from registered Independents. It’s not hard to see why the Democrats might push the panic button.

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