A collection of recent editorials from Oklahoma newspapers:
Muskogee Phoenix, Friday, June 26, 2015
Democrats' proposal just the start
Oklahoma Democrats should open their primaries to registered independent voters.
The new state Democratic Party Chairman Mark Hammons said a proposal to open their primaries will be considered during its state convention in July.
State Democrats say they are considering the proposal as a way of creating earlier and better direct contact with Independent voters.
That's a bold idea that we hope is adopted.
But that would be just the first domino that needs to topple in order to ensure Oklahoma has a fair election process.
Oklahoma's closed primary system — where voters can cast ballots only in the party primary for which they are registered — creates too many opportunities to disenfranchise voters.
It's more than fair that a closed primary system is used to determine party nominees for a general election. Only party members should be allowed to determine a party's nominee.
The problem with the state system comes when the only candidates to register for an office come from one party. That means only the one party can determine who holds the actual seat. Independents are denied their Constitutional right to vote.
If only Democrats file for an office that means that Republicans and Independents and any other accepted party member does not get to choose their representation.
The easy answer would be for state lawmakers to pass legislation that would end single-party primaries determining the office holder.
If multiple people file for an office and all are from one party then allow that party to whittle down the candidates to two. Those two should advance to an open general election that includes all registered voters.
State Democrats are on the right path.
Allowing Independents the right to vote in Democratic primaries will increase turnout and improve the system.
We hope Democrats take this step.
We hope Republicans do the same.
We also hope state lawmakers will write a law that allows for general elections to determine all office holders.
Enid News & Eagle, June 29, 2015
Some thoughts on ballot-access reform
For the first time in Oklahoma's history, more Republicans were registered than Democrats in our state in 2014.
Even when Democrats ruled registration numbers, our state tended to vote Republican in federal elections. (Consider this: Lyndon Johnson was the last non-GOP presidential candidate to carry the state way back in the 1960s.)
Oklahoma has a closed primary system, with Democrats and Republicans voting only for their own party.
With the tide turned, the Oklahoma Democratic Party is considering muddying the waters by opening its primaries to independent voters.
Don't do it. We agree with longtime Democratic Party activist Calvin Rees that such a move would water down that party's message.
"I believe the Democratic Party is a party of individuals with the same ideas, and that we joined this organization to get together and elect people of the same mindset and not just let anybody vote in our primaries," Rees told The Associated Press.
While Oklahoma's presidential candidate choices have been hindered by restrictive ballot access laws, a new state law is expected to help efforts to get nominees from other parties on the ballot.
The law that takes effect Nov. 1 will reduce that number to 3 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, which would be about 25,000 signatures, according to AP.
The Libertarian and Green parties are launching an effort to get on the 2016 presidential ballot. Kudos to these less power parties for working together despite their political differences.
While we're in favor of having more parties, we're against local offices being partisan. We should de-politicize county positions and make them nonpartisan.
Tulsa World, June 29, 2015
Higher education forced into tuition hike habit
Tuition and fee hikes for Oklahoma's public colleges and universities are becoming a habit — a habit only the Legislature, through adequate funding, could break. Last week the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education approved increases ranging from 3.2 percent at Tulsa Community College to nearly 5 percent at the state's two flagship universities, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.
Increases are hard on families and students and unpopular with the state's higher education system. They would far prefer having adequate appropriations from the Legislature.
That has not happened for several years, and "adequate" is in the eye of the beholder.
In Fiscal Year 2015, funding didn't keep up with inflation. In this last session, marked by long faces and shortfalls in funding, the Legislature cut higher ed appropriations by 3.5 percent. That cut wasn't as deep as many other agencies endured, but a painful reduction in the state's commitment to its own future prosperity at any rate.
Many other states have had to raise tuition and fees to keep college and university doors open and staff paid. There comes a breaking point, however, especially for those relying on student loans.
We'll say it one more time with feeling: If Oklahoma ever is to increase its number of degree-holders — something it must do to thrive — it should be holding down tuition and student fees, not raising them.