Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Committee Approves Election-Law Bill

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Committee Approves Election-Law Bill

Article excerpt

Oklahoma would revert to the political party caucus system for choosing presidential candidates under an omnibus election-law measure approved Thursday by the House Rules Committee.

Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa, committee chair, said that the presidential preferential primary system, enacted in 1986, has not worked out for Oklahoma.

"Oklahoma gets very little attention from the presidential candidates," he said. "Most people think that the caucus system energizes individuals."

Roach said that he will visit with party officials before final presentation of House Bill 1291.

"If either disagrees, we'll take it out," he said.

The bill includes legislation authored separately by Rep. Don Ross, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Odilia Dank, R-Oklahoma City, that would abolish straight-party voting.

It also would change Oklahoma from a "winner take all" state when it comes to electoral votes to a proportional/plurality system. Instead of the individual who pulls in the most votes statewide receiving all eight, soon to be seven, of Oklahoma's electoral votes, one elector would go to the candidate who receives a plurality of votes in each of the five congressional districts, with two at-large electoral votes going to the person who receives the statewide plurality.

Roach said that the issue of requiring voters to present identification at the polls may be the subject of other legislation and/or an interim study.

Both Steve Edwards, chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and Gordon Melson, executive director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, expressed mixed feelings about wiping out the presidential primary.

"I think there are some advantages to having a caucus," Edwards said, adding that he had not yet seen the committee version of the legislation.

There is greater voter involvement with a primary, Edwards said.

"But with a caucus, you have people participating who are very strong for a particular candidate," he added.

However, Edwards believes that the major flaw with how Oklahoma chooses its presidential candidate is not primary vs. caucus.

"Our primary is too late," Edwards said. "If they want to have an effective change that makes Oklahoma a player in the process, all they need to do is move up the date. …

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