The 2024 elections will be here soon, and it's crucial to keep in mind that an informed voter is a responsible voter when addressing Oklahoma election issues. Every Oklahoma voter should be aware of the major concerns facing the state to ensure they are informed prior to the election.
Here, we’ll walk through some of the top issues in the Sooner State in 2024.
Many Americans took their elections' security for granted until the 2020 presidential contest. Allegations of voter fraud and electoral misconduct affected the Oklahoma political agenda as a result. Despite investigations which concluded that the elections were conducted correctly, the damage had already been done.
Concerns about tainted elections became a primary focus for many voters in various states, including Oklahoma. In light of this, Oklahoma, like many other states, continues taking action to guarantee free and fair Oklahoma elections in 2024.
Some of the ways in which authorities deal with election concerns include:
Partnering with law-enforcement and federal agencies to dispel any disorder at the polls.
Using verifiable paper ballot-based voting systems.
Ensuring that voting devices are not connected to the Internet and have built-in security features.
Keeping ballots secured and following a strict chain of custody through the certification of the election.
Having poll workers go through standardized training.
Requiring voter identification.
Voter ID laws also deal with some of Oklahoma’s election concerns. All Oklahoma voters must present a photo ID at the polls. Some accepted proofs of identification include:
State-issued driver’s license
State-issued identification card
United States passport
Military ID card
Tribal membership card
Voter identification card
There are various economic challenges to address in Oklahoma. Consider the following statistics:
As of 2022, 15.7% of people lived in poverty in Oklahoma. Compare that number to the national poverty rate of 11.5%. In 2022, Oklahoma had the nation’s 8th highest poverty rate.
As of December 2023, Oklahoma's unemployment rate stood at 3.4%. In 71 out of the state’s 77 counties, the jobless rate had increased from a year prior.
Currently, Oklahoma’s minimum wage sits at $7.25 per hour (the federal minimum wage). An initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage may appear on the ballot as an initiated state statute on November 5, 2024. If passed, this measure would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2025, to $10.50 per hour in 2026, to $12 per hour in 2027, to $13.50 per hour in 2028, and finally to $15 per hour in 2029.
Additionally, the Oklahoma economy is heavily dependent on several large industries. For instance, the aerospace and defense industry generates $23 billion a year, and agriculture and bioscience generates $25 billion a year. Because of this, many candidates are proposing tax breaks and subsidies to these industries, making it one of Oklahoma's top issues in 2024.
Allegations of teaching "critical race theory" (CRT) in schools have surfaced as a hot topic of debate. Numerous independent investigations have demonstrated that this subject is not taught in elementary and secondary education because it is a law school course at the college level that addresses institutionalized inequality. However, critics have used this term and allegations of indoctrination to justify rejecting curriculums that emphasize diversity and minority cultures, even though it does not align with the academic community's definition of CRT.
Improvements to the criminal justice system are also up for debate in Oklahoma. The state’s death penalty has specifically come into the spotlight since two Republican state representatives, Kevin McDugle and J.J. Humphrey, began calling for a pause on executions in October 2023. Having executed 122 people since 1976, Oklahoma has the highest number of executions per capita in the United States.
Oklahoma's overall health ranking improved from 46th in 2019 to 45th in the nation in 2022. While this improvement is a sign of progress, important concerns related to healthcare remain pressing in Oklahoma.
One controversial topic that will be highlighted in the 2024 elections is the question of abortion. A law passed following the overturn of Roe v. Wade strictly prohibited abortion in Oklahoma as of May 25, 2022. Since then, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that the right to abortion is protected in life-threatening situations. The ruling still leaves abortion care largely unavailable in Oklahoma.
Questions about Oklahoma’s education system and policy will be important points to consider at the ballot box in 2024. A few key questions include:
Should taxpayer dollars be used to fund private religious schools?
Should school voucher laws be written in a way that protects discrimination of students based on gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and more?
Should schools have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs?
Removing books from schools, or conversely, prohibiting the banning of books, is another area of concern related to education.
Oklahoma currently ranks 48th in education quality out of the 50 states. Other education concerns for the 2024 elections will include how to increase standardized test scores, reduce dropout rates, and overall create a more sustainable education system.
Oklahoma has been in the national spotlight for a number of reasons, including its water quality and the closely connected practice of hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of oil and gas. Numerous urban developments in Oklahoma have had a significant impact on groundwater supplies, particularly in Oklahoma City and on several Native American reservations.
Water-related concerns, including groundwater conservation, water quality, and the permissible amount of impermeable cover in metropolitan areas, which can have a detrimental effect on both surface and groundwater, will top concerns in 2024. Another cause for concern is the oil and gas industry's use of "fracking," which has been linked to localized earthquakes and groundwater contamination.
Which of the above issues resonates most strongly with you? Whichever issues matter the most to you, you have the power to make a difference in Oklahoma in 2024. Here’s how:
Register to vote and make a plan to show up to vote on election day.
Stay informed by keeping up-to-date with the latest issues and news stories developing in Oklahoma.
Volunteer with organizations that contribute to causes you care about.
Consider running for office and representing your community’s needs in local government.
Remember, every small step counts toward making a big difference.