When Oklahoma voters went to the polls for Tuesday’s primary elections, Oklahoma Watch reporters met them to get their perspectives on the state of the state.
Among our questions: “How is Oklahoma working for you?” Here is a representative sample of their responses along with where they voted:
“Not well. It’s skewed so far to the right that it’s not moderate. We’re not in the middle, we’re on the tangent. I think the abortion issue is important. Also education. Trying to separate the state from religion is important to me. Also making sure we have representatives across all ethnicities. We have a tendency to be focused on the white population and we kind of discount everybody else. Also when I take a look at how our tax dollars are spent, the Swadley’s barbeque scandal and other stuff, we’re squandering money.”
— Richard Harvey, 72, who voted at the Wesley United Methodist Church in El Reno. Harvey said he wants state leaders to focus more on accountability.
“It seems like we’re pretty provided for. To me, it’s kind of like being in the South. What I mean by that: it’s family values, it’s education, taking care of your people, being a good neighbor, somebody needs to borrow an egg, give ‘em two eggs. You help people. Kindness. It’s the way I was brought up.”
— Steve Brown, 54, who voted in the Moore Public Schools administration building with his wife, Robin, and said education and health care are his top issues.
“I wish that emotion didn’t drive so many voters. I understand it, but I think we all kind of want the same thing basically. We don’t need to beat each other up.”
— Kathy Buttry, 63, a retired teacher who voted at the North MacArthur Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. “Abortion rights are on my mind. Whether I’m for abortion or not, I should have that right. The Constitution is not a religion.”
Oklahoma is paying a company associated with a political polling firm $300,000 per year to verify signatures for statewide ballot initiatives, leading some to question the fairness of the process by which Oklahomans can vote directly on state issues. Western Petition Systems LLC is now in charge of verifying signatures for State Question 820, which…
“Not great. It’s hard because I’m a stay-at-home mother and I lost my job right when the pandemic started. With (Gov. Kevin) Stitt ending unemployment benefits early, that didn’t work very well. Although I am pro-life, I’m also concerned with women’s rights. And I just do not feel like women get as many rights in Oklahoma as (in) other states. So that’s obviously hard, especially as a mother of three daughters. I want to see their rights expanded, not taken away.”
— Brittany Kime, 34, who said the economy and women’s rights are the issues most important to her Tuesday after voting in the Moore Public Schools administration building.
“Compared to other states, Oklahoma does a lot more, especially for veterans. I was in the Army for 20 years and one day. The cost of living in Oklahoma is reasonably good. The only problem we have in Oklahoma is the weather sucks.”
— Clarence Thomas, 63, who voted at the North MacArthur Church of Christ and said legislators need more direction. “That’s (on) the voters — we need to tell them what they need to do.”
“If I didn’t have family here, I’d consider moving. Representation is pretty slim for where I land on the spectrum.”
— Tera Borta, 44, who voted at the Moore Public Schools administration building and said education, women’s rights and choices and minority issues are the issues she most cares about.
“I’d say it works pretty good. I mean, I can’t imagine living anywhere else better.”
— Danny McCarter, 59, a member of the Cherokee Nation who voted at the Armory Municipal Center in Tahlequah.
“I’m from California, so I love Oklahoma. I’ve been here since 2011. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a very good state. We need some work on crime. I’m not opposed to guns; I’m opposed to idiots having guns. There should be a test.”
— Barbara Western, 69, who voted at the North MacArthur Church of Christ. Western said Gov. Stitt has done “a marvelous job” and lists taxes, health care and law enforcement as her top issues.
“Oklahoma seems to be doing OK. For our whole United States, no. But I do feel like some things are turning around. Let’s just put God first and get God back involved in politics.”
— Dana Awopeju, 49, who voted at Southmoore Baptist Church
“I come from a family of immigrants. We migrated here from Mexico, so coming here I saw how my parents were looking for a better life, and I honestly don’t see that better life. I do go to school — I am pursuing my career — and I work as well. But the education system that I got here in the southside when I compare it to some of my peers in college, it’s different than what they got in Edmond. And also just pay here is not that great. I think in order for us to get something here in Oklahoma we have to work twice as hard.”
— Diana Aguilar, a college student who was interviewed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. She said she was “discouraged to come here and vote” because of the lack of change she sees and the scarcity of people in the state Legislature who “look like me.”
“I’m originally from Denver. I’ve lived here for four years, but this is the first time voting in Oklahoma. It was a different experience voting on paper. I don’t think I have voted on paper since I was 18. I don’t like having a separate ballot for Democratic or Republican voters. I felt there were some Republicans that I cared about who represented my issues but they weren’t on my specific ballot. They should give us a Democratic and a Republican ballot and let us vote on the people we want to vote on.”
— Laria Langren, 58, Oklahoma City, who voted at North MacArthur Church of Christ for a new Oklahoma County jail and said she cares “about the governor’s misuse of (coronavirus relief) funds and infrastructure.“
“I’m happy with the way things are going. I’m personally happy with (Gov. Kevin) Stitt because I was afraid if we had a different governor, we would have locked down like a lot of other states. I didn’t want that personally.”
— Richard Haley, 53, who lists immigration and inflation as the issues most important to him. Haley voted at the North MacArthur Church of Christ.
“Not well. I’m here because of family and because I built my career here. If I was a lone ranger starting out my life, I wouldn’t be here. But I want to see it get better. And I think things are getting better in some areas.”
— Shianna Kinnett, 24, who voted at the Southmoore Baptist Church and said she would like to see a greater diversity in candidates and thought.
“It’s OK. It’s a little ultra-conservative, but it’s survivable.”
— Walter Phillips, 63, who voted at the North MacArthur Church of Christ. Phillips said the economy is his biggest issue and thinks state leaders would do well to “get out and talk to people on the ground and see what’s really going on. Just seeing it from their high chair doesn’t really help.”
“It’s really not. It’s incredibly hard being more liberal-minded in the state just because it’s so skewed conservative. Even where I work is more of a liberal area but there are conservative candidates everywhere. I didn’t see any Democratic candidates’ signs anywhere. I know that we’re there. I don’t know why we’re not being represented.”
— Mary Ingram, 32, who voted at the Southmoore Baptist Church.
“I don’t mean to get into a race thing, but people of color, we don’t really know a lot and they don’t come out. I ask my friends, are you going out to vote? Well, they don’t know. I think we need to give who we’re voting for more thought and I know that’s going to take time because people just don’t want to do it. A lot of people didn’t even know that today was even voting day.”
— Luisa King, Oklahoma City
“My home state continues to disappoint me. I don’t feel they’re working for me as a citizen or as a woman. I would like to see more support for public education. I would like to see more separation of church and state. I don’t feel the Republican Party represents me in any way shape or fashion.”
— Kate Kelly, 61, who said if identification is going to be required for voters “it needs to be easy for people to get” when interviewed Tuesday at the Armory Municipal Center in Tahlequah.
“I lived overseas 28 years, so I’ve seen other ways of doing things. You have to wear your party on your sleeve here (in elections). It’s very different and still feels strange.”
— Ericka Fairclough, 51, Oklahoma City, who has a teenage daughter and said “reproductive rights are very much on my mind now” when she voted at North MacArthur Church of Christ
“I will never vote Republican again because of all these stupid people that still are latching on to this obvious lie and I just don’t understand. I am here to vote for anti-stupidity.”
— Robie Girdner, 58, who voted at the Armory Municipal Center in Tahlequah.
“I do not think it is. With the bills they’re passing about abortions, I don’t believe that men should be making decisions for what a women should do with her body. They don’t have to go through it, they don’t have to deal with it. Once these babies are born, they don’t care about them anymore. There are all kinds of reasons why people get abortions.”
— Tia Cross, 32, Oklahoma City, who said she came to North MacArthur Church of Christ to vote for a new Oklahoma County jail.
Interviews conducted by: Whitney Bryen from Oklahoma City, Luther and Arcadia; Ari Fife from Tahlequah; Paul Monies from northwest Oklahoma City; Jennifer Palmer from Moore; Lionel Ramos from south Oklahoma City; Keaton Ross from El Reno.