With the 2022 legislative session and midterm election cycle solidly in the rearview mirror, the news cycle seems to have finally slowed down. 

The sense of quiet won’t last long. Gov. Kevin Stitt will be sworn in for a second term on Jan. 9. Nine days after that on Jan. 19, lawmakers face a deadline to file bills and joint resolutions for the 2023 legislative session, which officially begins on Monday, Feb. 6.

As we look ahead to a new year, looking back can what’s transpired over the past 12 months can be a useful exercise. From delays in implementing online voter registration to a rise in uncontested races, here are 10 of the top democracy stories of 2022: 

Claiming Out-of-State Influences, Oklahoma Looks to Clamp Down on State Question Laws: Republican lawmakers tried to tighten requirements for citizen-led initiative petitions to get on the ballot and raise thresholds by which they would be required to pass. The proposals ultimately fizzled in the final weeks of the session. (By Trevor Brown on Feb. 28, 2022)

Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Laws to Themselves: Oklahoma is one of four states exempting its legislature from public records laws, keeping lawmakers’ calendars, call logs and emails a secret. A proposal to change that died with little fanfare in March. (By Trevor Brown on March 17, 2022) 

Nearly Half of Oklahoma Legislative Races Are Already Decided Without a Vote: In 55 state House and Senate Races, candidates automatically earned a seat in the Legislature when a challenger didn’t file to run against them. In recent election cycles, Oklahoma has featured more uncompetitive legislative races than most of the country. (By Trevor Brown on April 18, 2022) 

Hundreds of Bills Passed the Legislature. Just a Dozen Were Authored by Democrats: As the Republican party has built and maintained a legislative supermajority, Democrats’ legislative success rate has dwindled. (By Trevor Brown on June 2, 2022)

The Misinformation Election: Lies, Conspiracy Theories Prominent in Many GOP Races: In the weeks leading up to the June 28 primary, more than a dozen GOP candidates repeated lies that widespread voter fraud cost Donald Trump the 2020 election, an Oklahoma Watch review found. (By Trevor Brown on June 6, 2022)

Seven Years in the Making, Oklahoma Online Voter Registration Remains a Work in Progress: Technical issues have prolonged Oklahoma’s implementation of a fully online voter registration system, something voting advocates say can help improve civic engagement and turnout, particularly among young people. The Nov. 8 general election came and went without online registration. (By Keaton Ross on July 21, 2022) 

Why Most Oklahoma State Legislative Races Are Uncontested: In this story, I take a deep look into why most Oklahoma voters had no say in electing their state legislators in November. Republican dominance and civic disengagement are among the top contributors. (By Keaton Ross on Sept. 6, 2022)

Why 21,000 Oklahoma Citizens Face Significant Barriers to the Ballot: While Oklahoma’s Latino population has grown 42% over the past decade, only Texas County in the panhandle offers ballots and voting materials in Spanish. My colleague digs into why that is and the prospects for change. (By Lionel Ramos on Oct. 4, 2022)

As November Nears, Many County Election Boards Look to Add Poll Workers: Fear of harassment and contracting COVID-19 dissuaded some long-time poll workers from working this election cycle. I spoke with local election officials across the state about their efforts to staff the polls and ensure safety on Election Day. (By Keaton Ross on Oct. 10, 2022)

Oklahoma Lawmakers Use Campaign Reserves to Boost Candidates in Tight Races: In the days and weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election, incumbent Oklahoma lawmakers poured tens of thousands of dollars into state House and Senate candidates, a practice that previously raised ethical concerns. (By Keaton Ross on Nov. 7, 2022)

Have a story idea or issue you think I should cover in 2023? Let me know at kross@oklahomawatch.org.

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What I’m Reading This Week

  • Audit Confirms Oklahoma’s Election Results: Of 31 races and thousands of ballots retabulated, election officials found only two cases where audit totals differed from official results. Officials said the audit results confirm the reliability and accuracy of Oklahoma’s election system. [The Oklahoman]
  • Mexican Consulate to Open in Oklahoma City This Spring: The office will provide assistance to Oklahoma’s growing Mexican population who currently rely on consulates in Arkansas and Missouri. [KGOU]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt Returns From Economic Trip to Qatar: Arriving in the final rounds of the World Cup, the governor was there to promote Oklahoma’s energy industry and attract investors, a spokesperson said. The governor’s office said private dollars funded the trip. [Tulsa World]

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