After watching Oklahomans go to the polls November 6, many were left wondering how Sooner State voters choose their candidates.
It turns out a lot of them don't.
Oklahoma is one of eight states - that number drops to seven in 2020 when Texas removes the option - that allow straight party voting. About 40 percent of all voters who took the time to cast a ballot decided to save some time by voting straight party.
Mary Fallin was remarkably unpopular with an approval rating of about 13 percent. The legislature was doing such a great job that educators marched to the state capitol for about two weeks this spring.
So how did a candidate who was endorsed by that unpopular governor win his race so easily and the supermajority for the party in power in the legislature actually increase?
It helps that more than a quarter of the votes cast were straight party Republican. Those voters didn't care who the candidates were, they were convinced that the Republican candidates were the best.
I'm sure some simply checked the ballot, chose all Republican candidates and saved the time of coloring in a few boxes by marking one box to cover many votes. These Republican voters are efficient if nothing else.
Democrats, when you figure the average difference in ballots cast, were equally efficient and thoughtful as their Republican brethren.
The best evidence that these voters are lazy partisans rather than politically pure voters who always align with one party came from the Libertarians.
Almost 7,500 people voted straight-party libertarian. There were only two Libertarians on the ballot in state-wide races. There were a few down the ballot, so at most, those voters saved checking two boxes by voting straight party.
Either they didn't cast ballots in the other races or they picked a candidate - which overrides the straight party box anyway.
There were far more Independent candidates on the ballot, but you can't vote straight party Independent because independents exist outside of a party, they aren't an actual party.
Oklahoma voting rules are ridiculous. You can vote straight party, but you can't have write-in candidates. We have closed primaries, but the Democrats allow independents to vote in their primaries.
What is the value of straight party voting? The candidates are identified by their party on the ballot. Is it really too much to ask of people helping to decide who the Governor is going to be to find the candidate who has (Rep) by their name?
Straight party voting creates a European parliamentary style of government. Voting straight party cedes your electoral authority to a party. We fought the Revolutionary War to break ties with the British, not to set up political parties that work like theirs.
Oklahoma legislators need to either get rid of straight party voting or Speaker of the House Charles McCall and his cronies should have to wear a powdered wig and eat figgy pudding instead of suits and trips to Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse or Cattlemen's.
Voting straight party has no benefit and devolves voters to the lowest common denominator. Ending the practice doesn't hurt anyone, but as long as more than 300,000 check the Republican box, I doubt we'll see any urgency from the Republican supermajorities in the House or Senate or Republican Governor to call for an end to the practice.