Voting

2018 Primary Voter Turnout

2018 Primary Voter Turnout - July 15, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Tom Hanks doesn’t normally play the bad guy. However, in the 2017 technology thriller named “The Circle” he is definitely the face and brain behind a sinister Silicon Valley company that has the ability to learn and the computer storage to retain way too much information about virtually everyone.

The concept is not far-fetched. For instance, a few months ago I was looking at an iPhone app that would allow users to create digital caricature of themselves to use on line and in text messages, etc. During the process, a button popped up that informed the user that to create the final product, they would be required to accept the terms and conditions of a “user agreement.”

Alarmingly, the lengthy “user agreement” contained in fine print, language that the user was “consenting” to have their keystrokes logged and tracked. While keystroke tracking is of absolutely no benefit to the user, the creator of the app is benefited greatly, even if they had no malicious intent.

In truth and fact, most of us have already been identified, profiled and categorized by a multitude of companies due to the “cookies” that attach to our browsing habits. Case in point, two or three years ago, I checked the online airfare for a round trip to Boston and now a week doesn’t go by that I am notified of “great deals” on a Boston vacation.

So while the theme of “The Circle” was disturbing, one of the “services” that the fictional company offered was that signing up for a Circle account would automatically register the account holder to vote.

As the company’s sinister nature became evident, I was blissfully thankful that here in the good old USA, voter registration is handled by government agencies such as Oklahoma’s State Election Board.

My bliss ended this week; the Republican Governor of Maryland, and its Senate President and Speaker of the House, both Democrats, conducted a hastily called news conference on Friday to announce that a billionaire Russian investor named Vladimir Potanin, had purchased the software vendor, ByteGrid, LLC,  that maintains that state’s voter registration system, candidacy and election management system, as well as its online ballot delivery system and election night return website.

The elected officials issued a bipartisan request for the Maryland Attorney General to investigate and sought assistance from federal officials. Oklahoma and 48 other states should heed this action and at least verify that their election systems are not utilizing this vendor’s software.

In any event, Oklahoma is coming off of a June 26, 2018, primary election that has the pundits baffled. Turnout in the primary was 891,654 which was more than twice the 432,757 voters that cast ballots in Oklahoma’s last gubernatorial primary. The 2018 primary even eclipsed the 2014 general election for governor ballot total of 824,831, by more than 8%.

There is little doubt that the medical marijuana question drove numbers up. One indicator of that is that more than 45,000 voters went to the polls last month and voted on that question only and either left the rest of the ballot blank or didn’t even request a full ballot.

Most analysts also cite the number of candidates who filed and the number of voters who are very frustrated with a decade of educational underfunding as pushing turnout up. Whatever the reason, the greater the number of citizens who vote, the better it is for Oklahoma.

Questions or comments please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

A Noble Act

A Noble Act - July 9, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

                Last week Oklahoma’s Second District Congressman, Markwayne Mullin once again brought the issue of term limits to the political forefront. Rep. Mullin had promised his constituents in 2012 that he would self-impose a six year (three-term) limit on his service in the United States House of Representatives. The newsworthy element of that story was that while nearing the end of his third term, he decided that his work in D.C. was not done and he therefore would run again.

His announcement ignited a firestorm of allegations about “broken promises".  Former United States Senator Tom Coburn was particularly harsh when he went so far as to say that Mullin “had drunk the Kool-Aid” and that “the arrogance of power has affected his thinking and when a man’s word doesn’t mean anything, nothing else matters.”

However, the story behind the story is really more about voter participation than it is about Mullin reneging on his word. Oklahomans have long had a distrust of government. While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution addresses freedom from religious oppression and freedom of speech, the press and assembly, Oklahoma’s forefathers focused on the POWER OF THE PEOPLE.

The exact language in Section 1 of Oklahoma’s Bill of Rights is, “All political power is inherent in the people; and government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and to promote their general welfare; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it..”

Those alterations and reforms have been frequent and often involve the process of Initiative and Referendum. Lloyd Noble II freshly stinging from a campaign defeat used considerable resources to promote an Initiative Petition for term limits on the state’s elected officials. In September if 1990, when State Question 632 passed by a two-to-one margin, Oklahoma became the first in the country to impose a 12 year lifetime limit on state representatives and senators.

The motto that “Politicians, like diapers, should be changed frequently and for the same reason” was humorous but wholly ignored the fact that voters always have the ability to “term limit” THEIR OWN representative. In all honesty, term limits are more about limiting the terms of SOMEONE ELSE’s representative than one’s own.

Legislators have brought some of this on themselves by undermining the intent of voters who clearly state their intent in Initiative Petition elections. Two recent examples are State Questions 640 and 780.

SQ 640 was the 1992 ballot that passed by 56 to 44 percent and made it clear that any revenue raising measure must be approved by the people UNLESS it received a 75% approval in both the House and the Senate. Legislative leaders promptly tossed that requirement to the wind when they decided to pass revenue measures by a simple majority rather than negotiate about gross production taxes.

SQ 780 was the 2016 ballot that passed by 58 to 42 percent and reclassified some drug and property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. As a result, legislation was introduced to “save voters from themselves” and block other criminal justice reforms.

Another example of elected officials blatantly disregarding the will of the people involves SQ 662, adopted in September 1994. That ballot actually limited the terms of U.S. Representatives (6 years) and U.S. Senators (12 years). Despite the clear message (by a 67% to 33% vote) sent by Oklahoma voters, a federal court ruled that federal term limits violated the U.S. Constitution.

Despite the Court’s ruling, the will of the Oklahoma voters was clear and Article 2, Section 12A remains on the books. One of Oklahoma’s Congressmen is going on 24 years and another is at 14, both greatly exceeding the limits set by voters.  Likewise, one of Oklahoma’s Senators has nearly doubled the time that voters wanted set.

It is no wonder that one of the primary reasons that people don’t vote is that they believe that their vote doesn’t count. Unfortunately, neither the term limits imposed as a result of Lloyd Noble’s crushing defeat nor Markwayne Mullin’s reversal alleviate it one bit.

Questions or comments call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

Many Reasons for THE PEOPLE to Vote in Oklahoma

Many Reasons for THE PEOPLE to Vote in Oklahoma - October 23, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Most of us hope the 2016 election year will never be repeated. All eyes are on the race for the White House and the country is deeply divided.

It is true that the airwaves across America have been saturated with venomous negativity in the Presidential contest and that many people in both parties do not support the candidate of either party.

From the Oval Office to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington D.C. issues are mired in gridlock. Less than one in ten Americans (9%) have any confidence in the current U.S. Congress, including Senators Inhofe and Lankford and Representatives Cole, Lucas, Mullen, Bridenstine and Russell.

Alarmingly, many voters are so frustrated with the presidential candidates and congressional races that they are considering staying home and not casting a ballot. However, it is imperative that Oklahomans clearly separate what is happening in Washington DC from what is happening in at our State Capitol.

There are a number of reasons that every Oklahoman needs to vote, but the most important ones involve the future of our children and the health of Oklahomans.

Regardless of who we talk to, Oklahoma is facing six or seven key issues that have been neglected by the state’s leadership over the past decade. Those issues are public education funding, rising healthcare costs, crumbling roads and bridges, a trained and career ready workforce, low and stagnant wages, overcrowded prisons and availability of water as a resource.

The list makes two things very clear, not only did the partisan supermajority at the state capitol contribute to these problems, NONE of the state questions focused on fixing the problems were placed on the ballot by the legislature.

In response to nearly ten years of cuts to public education by the legislative supermajority, THE PEOPLE did the only thing that they could and placed State Question 779 on the ballot to supplement Oklahoma’s education budget.

While Oklahoma’s legislative supermajority sat on its hands while prison overcrowding becomes dangerous to correctional employees, THE PEOPLE did the only thing that they could and proposed State Question 780 to change certain offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

As Oklahoma’s legislative supermajority twiddled its thumbs and did nothing for mental health and substance abuse treatment, THE PEOPLE initiated State Question 781 to provide funding for local drug treatment and counseling services using funds to be saved from decreasing incarceration rates.

It’s not easy for THE PEOPLE to get a state question on the ballot. It would be much easier for THE PEOPLE to replace the legislative supermajority that is blocking solutions to the problems that Oklahoma faces.

Maybe 2016 is the year that THE PEOPLE realize that once every two years, they have more power than all the government bureaucrats, corporate lobbyists and legislative supermajority combined. Oklahoma voters have MORE CHOICES across the state than they have had in years. Maybe ever. GO VOTE.

Instead of standing in line to vote on November 8, you may order an ABSENTEE BALLOT from your county election board between now and Wednesday, November 2 or vote IN PERSON at your County Election Board office on November 3, 4 and 5.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Right Here in River City

Right Here In River City - October 9, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

This year’s race for the White House has the seamy underside of politics on full display. The partisan incivility in the presidential campaign has even diverted attention from the fact that polls earlier this year showed that a record high 86% percent of Americans disapprove of Congress and for the first time in memory more people disapprove than approve of THEIR OWN U.S. Senator or Congressman.

It is difficult to predict how these factors will affect voter turnout on November 8. Some think that many Oklahoma voters will display their disgust by simply sitting out the entire election. The current disdain for elected officials is understandable, but low voter turnout is the very thing that got us where we are.

While Oklahoma voters can’t do much to affect Washington D.C. and the truth is that Oklahoma citizens are more affected by decisions made by Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature than anything the federal government could ever toss our way. Fortunately, if Oklahoma voters actually cast ballots, they could exercise direct control over what is happening at the state capitol.

In fact, the words of Harold Hill of Music Man fame fit us to a T. That is T as in “Trouble, right here in River City.” That’s Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and in our case that stands for Public Schools as in underfunded public schools that are cutting class days and lacking textbooks and unable to pay teachers a living wage.

That P also stands for Prisons as in overcrowded and dangerously understaffed with correctional employees who along with thousands of other state employees have not received a raise in over eight years and are seeing their standard of living drop to new lows.

While we are at it, that T also rhymes with C and together they stand for way too many Tax Credits that have been used by the Oklahoma legislature to pay back lobbyists and their corporate clients by shoveling more money out the back door of the Oklahoma Tax Commission than is coming through the front door in the form of tax receipts.

Staying home from the polls doesn’t cure the mess in Oklahoma City. There are state questions that need to be voted on and legislative races where men and women who want to make things better need your votes.

The most effective thing that you can do to improve the lives and future of Oklahomans, young and old, is to recognize that Trouble starts with T and that rhymes with V and that stands for VOTE for candidates who will serve you instead of the corporate interests and lobbyists who fund their campaigns.

The last day to REGISTER to Vote is Friday, October 14.

The last day to REQUEST AN ABSENTEE BALLOT is Wednesday, November 2.

Early voting at your County Election Board is available on Thursday, November 3; Friday, November 4; and Saturday morning, November 5.

You may vote at your assigned polling location on Tuesday, November 8.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma. If you need additional information on this or any other matter, please call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Wake Me Up Before the War is Over

Wake Me Up Before the War is Over - July 17, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Although the 1969 movie, "Wake Me Up When the War is Over," starring Ken Berry as an American Lieutenant and Eva Gabor as a German baroness was a comedic spoof set around the end of World War II, its premise is not unheard of.

In order to keep the soldier with her, the Baroness fails to tell him the war ended while he was unconscious and under her care.

Real life examples of soldiers and sailors who continue to fight beyond war's end have occurred several times in our country's history.

Andrew Jackson became an American war hero when he led his soldiers to a tremendous victory over the British in January 1815 in the Battle of New Orleans, nearly three weeks after the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812.

In June 1865, the CCS Shenandoah, on a mission to cripple commerce in the Union states, captured more than 20 Yankee whaling ships in Alaska's Bering Straight. The successful sea campaign took place more than two months after Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General Ulysses Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse.

In maybe the most bizarre example of belated battlefield enlightenment, Japanese Intelligence Officer Hiroo Onado was found on a remote island in the Philipines in 1974 still awaiting further orders and wearing the tattered remnants of his uniform 29 years after Emperor Hirohito's Imperial forces had surrendered in Tokyo Bay.

Missing the end of a war is one thing but failing to participate in the electoral battles at hand is irresponsible and reprehensible.

Nonvoters have no one except themselves to blame when our government does not reflect the needs of our people. Only when the masses engage in the voting process can we reclaim our democracy.

In 1992, 98% of the eligible voters in our state were registered. In 2014, the percentage of eligible voters who took the time to register had dropped to 74% and of that number, only 40.7% voted. Those numbers mean that only 29% of Oklahoma's eligible voters cast a ballot in 2014.

Frustratingly, younger voters, those between 18 and 45, were the most derelict in their civic duty. Less than 1 in 5 of them voted in 2014. More than 80% of Oklahomans under 45 years of age who were eligible to vote bothered to cast a ballot although they are the very citizens who are struggling under tons of student debt, cannot afford health insurance or medical care, are suffering income inequality, cannot afford to purchase a home, and are having the benefits of public education pulled from under their feet.

According to a poll conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 62.4% of registered voters were either too busy, were out of town, forgot or were not interested. Nearly 2 out of 3 voters who did not vote just didn't believe that their future or their economic circumstances were important enough for them to take the time to vote.

Wouldn't it be a shame if these folks slept through the battles that end their own democracy? Wake them up BEFORE the war is over.

Questions or comments, David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

A Government of the People, By the People, For the People

A Government of the People, By the People, For the People - October 4, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

                Few people remember that when Abraham Lincoln climbed the steps to the platform to deliver his Gettysburg address, he was ill.  His illness was not simply the stress of a wartime president.  Lincoln was actually weak and lightheaded with an oncoming case of smallpox on November 19, 1863 as he visited the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

                Perhaps the President’s weakened condition contributed to the brevity of his speech. Perhaps he said all that he needed to say in the address that lasted just over two minutes.

                While at the time, many may have been unimpressed by Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; over time its ending - Government of the People, by the People, for the People – has come to symbolize the definition of democracy itself.

For this reason, the trend away from voter participation in the United States, and particularly in Oklahoma, is alarming.

When citizens fail to engage in the process of knowing the issues and casting educated ballots in elections at any level, the government is no longer Of the People. The abdication of this duty allows special interest groups on the right or on the left to control the outcome of the electoral process and the government is no longer By the People.

Oklahoma’s voter turnout rate has been consistently under the national average. According to the 2012 Oklahoma Civic Health Index, only 7.2% of eligible voters younger than 30 vote in local elections; less than 5% have any contact with elected officials and fewer than 1 in 5 discuss politics.

                Fewer than 1 in 3 Oklahomans between 30 and 50 discuss politics, less than 9% have contact with elected officials and only 17.3% vote in local elections.

                However, the lack of engagement does not begin there. In 2012, 62.8% of the Oklahoma State House of Representative seats did not have a chance to be competitive because of the lack of an opponent.

                It is essential that the cause of low rates of political engagement and participation be identified and addressed.  This week, I am sponsoring a Legislative Interim Study bringing together four national and statewide non-partisan experts who will present information to the legislature concerning the current situation and possible solutions.

                A year or so ago when legislation concerning the elimination of the Electoral College came before the legislature, I overheard a lawmaker say, “If this passes and we elect a president based purely upon who gets the most votes, our party will never elect another president.”

                We must overcome the temptation to judge whether voter participation and election reform benefits Democrats or Republicans.  If the test for whether we want more people to vote is whether it will help or hurt our own political party, then we have already failed.

                A government must reflect the needs, desires and concerns of an educated electorate and that requires engagement at all levels. Otherwise, this government that we claim to love so dearly will no longer be For the People.

David may be reached at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Tips for Getting Your Horse to Drink Water

Tips for Getting Your Horse to Drink Water - July 12, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

A common problem for horsemen is making sure that their horse drinks enough water. A horse may go for a couple of weeks without food, but it is at severe risk after three or four days without water. In fact, healthy horses need to drink between five and twenty gallons of water per day depending upon the temperature and the horse’s activity.

We know that leading a horse to water is much simpler than getting it to drink and the problem is exasperated when the horse is moved to a new location. The move and the strange environment often cause horses to refuse to drink.

It is possible however to coax a horse to increase its water intake by keeping tanks and buckets clean and in the shade and the water as close to 50 degrees as possible. Another hint is to bring a bucket that is familiar to the horse when traveling.

Finally, follow the example of old timers who often “spiked” the water with a little flavoring using molasses.  Today, a subtle touch of kool-aid, apple juice or powdered Gatorade might provide just the right incentive.

Just like horses neglect to drink, too many Oklahomans neglect to vote. Although Oklahoma’s population has increased by nearly ten percent since 2005, the number of registered voters in Oklahoma has declined by almost 120,000. Also, fewer than 3 out of every ten voters cast a ballot in the November 2014 Oklahoma governor’s election.

Our representative democracy will no longer be representative of its citizenry if its citizens fail to vote. In fact, the ONLY action that can counter out of control political contributions of corporations and special interest groups is a voter casting a vote at the ballot box.

Partisan gerrymandering protects incumbent politicians and the political party that establishes congressional and legislative boundaries. It hinders the ability of voters to elect the candidate of their choice. Oklahomans must take steps to reclaim the power to set district boundaries through non-partisan redistricting commissions.

Apathy and futility cause low voter turnout, however, proven methods have been successful in other states to increase voter registration and voter participation.  A healthy democracy is dependent upon educated and informed voters who vote for the common good.

North Dakota has no voter registration requirement. Obtaining a Driver’s License or a State Issued ID qualifies a citizen to vote. The three states that have instituted all mail elections have seen substantial cost savings and substantial increases in voter turnout. Compared to Oklahoma’s 29% turnout, Colorado had a 71% turnout and Washington and Oregon both voted at approximately 65%. 

Both of these as well as other voting procedure reforms will be reviewed in Interim Study 2015-56 before the State House Elections and Ethics Committee.

If our horse neglected to drink water, we would do everything in our power to save it.  Doesn’t our democracy deserve even more attention?

Questions or comments, call 405-557-7401 or email David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

 

From Bullets to Ballots

From Bullets to Ballots - June 7, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

The American Revolution ended when the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, the date that the colonists officially realized independence from Great Britain. The declaration made seven years earlier was but words until sealed with the blood of men ultimately purchasing the transfer of power from the monarchy to the people of this new nation.

Significantly, for more than 200 years since that Treaty, peaceful transfers of power routinely occur. The first was on March 4, 1801 when Thomas Jefferson became President after an election that is often called the Revolution of 1800.

Twelve years of Federalist control had deeply divided the nation and distrust abounded. The young country was at a critical juncture as both sides honestly believed that the fundamental principles of democracy were at stake. Some years later, Jefferson wrote that “the election of 1800 was a revolution in the principles of our government which was every bit as real as that of 1776 was in form.”

America holds the record for years of uninterrupted peaceful transfers of power and that record will continue so long as our society honors the rule of law and engages in the political process. Unfortunately, millions of men and women fail to see the connection between their duty to be an informed, active voter and the duty of an American Revolutionary Patriot to take up arms against the British Crown.

What would the colonists’ chance of victory been if less than 3 of every 10 able bodied men had rallied for America’s independence? In the November 2014 Governor’s election only 29% of Oklahoma’s eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

Today, less than two-thirds of Oklahoma’s eligible voters are even registered. According to State Election Board statistics, in January 2005, more than 2.1 million people were registered to vote.  Ten years later and about 10 percent more residents, 119,280 fewer Oklahomans were registered to vote than in 2005.

Oklahoma is not alone. Voter registration and turnout are at alarming lows across the country and many factors are to blame. Some, such as campaign finance reform and unlimited corporate money, must be resolved on the federal level. 

But, at the State level, Oklahoma’s SB 313 that allows eligible citizens to register to vote online will soon become law. Other reforms by other states deserve attention.

New Mexico is one of a handful of states that provide Voter Convenience Centers allowing voters to cast ballots at fairs, shopping malls and other high traffic areas. Washington, Oregon and Colorado all conduct elections by mail. States are examining ways to eliminate long lines and confusing ballots.

The bullets of the Revolutionary War were replaced with ballots. We rightfully thank those who protect us from foreign powers, but when it comes to voter apathy, perhaps the poignant words of Walt Kelly’s Pogo fit best, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Questions or comments, call 405-557-7401 or email David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

 

Pop-Off Valves and a Representative Democracy

Pop-Off Valves and a Representative Democracy - November 16, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

In the dark recesses of my Mom’s walk in pantry, next to an old Daisy butter churn is a relic of another era.  There by a wooden sauerkraut board and a 3 gallon stoneware crock that always seemed to be full of fermenting kraut sits her pressure canner. 

Although it has been decades since the wing nuts were tightened and glass jars of low acid vegetables like green beans or carrots were canned at the customary 10 pounds of pressure, the thick heavy container and lid with a pressure gauge, regulator and pressure release valve appears as functional as the day it was stowed.

Pressure relief valves, sometime referred to as pop-off valves, function to allow excess pressure to escape without destroying the container or the contents.  Elections serve a similar purpose in a healthy representative democracy.  In the absence of free and fair elections, change in government can only be attained through revolution or a coup d’etat, both of which generally involve bloodshed.

The greatness of our nation is based on the rule of law and elections at regular intervals but emotional disenfranchisement may well pose the most significant danger to the future of our country. Citizens who do not register to vote and registered voters who do not cast ballots allow others to establish the agenda and set policy.

Repeatedly we hear that if we do not vote, we cannot complain, however, that analysis trivializes the real danger associated with a lack of participation in the electoral process.  All aspects of Western society, from economics to the law and even the legislative branch are based on an adversarial system of opportunistic survival. While ethics and morality exist to temper aggression in these arenas, competition sets the pace.

Therefore a citizen who does not engage in the process of selecting leaders plainly and simply abdicates his responsibility and thereby magnifies the electoral influence of those who do engage but do not share like concerns or values.  In short, staying home from the polls distorts a democracy and destroys any semblance of a republic.

According to the United States Election Project by the University of Florida, just 37 percent of eligible American voters cast ballots. Oklahoma was 7th from the bottom of the list of states with only 29% of Oklahoma’s eligible voters engaging.  Consequently, most winning candidates garnered only 16 to 18% of the people who could have voted.

According to the New York Times, the 2014 election had the worst turnout in 72 years and based on a report in Oklahoma Watch, the Sooner State’s turnout may be the worst on record. While it is true that non-Presidential election years normally signal lower voter turnout, in Oklahoma, the voter turnout dropped 9% from the 2010 non-Presidential election, 4 years ago.

Only eight Oklahoma counties saw more than 50% of their registered voters cast ballots. Sadly, all eight of those counties were sparsely populated and on average produced less than 1650 votes each.

One possible reason: Disillusionment.  According to national exit polls, Fifty-three percent of voters hold an unfavorable view of Democrats and Fifty-six percent have an unfavorable view of Republicans. Sixty-one percent said that they are dissatisfied or even angry at Republican leaders in Congress and only two in ten have any faith that Washington will do what is right all or most of the time.

Pop-off valves have no purpose in the absence of steam and elections are superfluous in the absence of voters. Anxiously we listen for signs of life and the whistle of the teapot.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Identification in the Information Age

IDENTIFICATION IN THE INFORMATION AGE - September 21, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

If Ferdinand Waldo Demara is a name that means anything to you, perhaps you are cut out for a career in law enforcement...or you might have just spent too many hours as a child in the post office leafing through wanted posters.

Demara’s nickname, the “Chameleon” was earned through a lifetime of taking the identity of a number of different people in such varied careers as monks, surgeons and prison wardens.  Ferdinand, commonly called “Fred” left home at sixteen after watching his father lose everything in the Great Depression.

He bounced from the monastery to the military and back again.  When neither the armed services nor the ministry were a fit, he assumed the identity of a psychiatrist then a college professor and then an orderly at a sanitarium. Perhaps his greatest masquerade was as a military trauma surgeon aboard a Royal Canadian destroyer ship during the Second World War at which time, he performed a number of intricate but successful surgeries.

We might like to think that the rudimentary technology of the 1930’s and 40’s contributed to Demara’s ability to assume more than 40 different identities.  However, two decades later, 1960’s technology was no more adept at catching Frank Abagnale whose story was chronicled in the 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio film Catch Me If You Can.

Now, fifty years removed from Abagnale’s antics, biometric technology, involving the use of human characteristics for identification, security and access control, is readily available. At the federal level, in an attempt to make it more difficult for terrorists to obtain fraudulent ID’s, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005.

While Oklahomans are comfortable with the well-established biometric use of fingerprint technology, other identifiers such as iris recognition, retina scans, face recognition, DNA, palm veins and prints, hand geometry, body shape as well as odors and scents have met resistance. In 2007, the Oklahoma legislature adopted SB 464 prohibiting the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety from implementing key provisions of the REAL ID Act of 2005 and requiring all Oklahoma agencies to delete all previously collected or retained biometric data from all state databases.

Today, your Oklahoma ID is not sufficient to allow you to gain access to restricted areas in federal buildings.  In approximately 100 days, Oklahomans will not even be able to get into most federal buildings and in twelve short months an Oklahoma driver license will not be recognized by TSA agents to allow Oklahomans to board a commercial flight.

A key deficiency in Oklahoma’s process is the fact that Oklahoma has not taken steps to secure access to the machines that produce identification cards and driver licenses.

The identification debate has also crept over into the arena of voter ID. Wendy Underhill’s September 2014 article in State Legislatures, the magazine of the National Conference of State Legislatures, examines whether voter ID laws are couched to fight voter fraud or block ballot box access.

Eligible citizens should be able to vote and ineligible voters should be prevented from doing so. However, which principle is more important: access to the ballot box or prevention of voter fraud.

The Carnegie Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through News21, a national investigative project funded a special in-depth 2012 investigation and study called “Who Can Vote.” The study’s conclusion was that voter fraud in the U.S. is infinitesimal and that nationally, over more than a decade, there were no more than 10 reported incidents of in-person voter impersonation.

The greatest amount of fraud occurred through the voter registration process and through the use of absentee ballots and that voter identification documents, photo or not, would not have prevented this type of fraud. 

Consequently, the most pressing identification issue facing Oklahomans today is the verification of identity at the time that the identification is issued, not when or how it is used.  Until Oklahoma’s process is compliant in that regard, with or without biometric data, we will not be meeting the needs of Oklahomans.

A good fingerprint database, let alone a retina scan, would have prevented the fraud of Demera and Abignale.  Instead, Oklahoma’s lawmakers appear more concerned with who does and doesn’t vote than with the safety of our flights.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

We Say 'Toe-May-Toe'

  We Say ‘Toe-May-Toe’ for the Common Good - January 5, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

In the 1930’s when George and Ira Gershwin wrote the oft quoted lyrics to “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” they were not only poking fun at regional dialect, but also class differences.  Somehow blue-bloods who spoke ‘Toe-Mah-Toe, Poe-Tah-Toe and Bah-nah-nah’ considered themselves superior to our grandparents who actually knew where tomatoes and potatoes came from.

Today, it is humorous when we hear Republicans insist that we live not in a democracy but a republic and Democrats who simply maintain that ours is the greatest democracy in the history of the world. You may recall the 1960’s commercial where the announcer interrupted two identically dressed young ladies who were arguing over whether Certs was a candy mint or a breath mint.  He interjected, ‘Stop, you’re both right…Certs is two…two…two mints in one, with a sparkling drop of Retsyn.’

Regardless of party registration, we should all pause and consider that the first week of January, 2014, marks the 225th anniversary of the election of George Washington as our country’s first president.  Prior to 1789, we had no Chief Executive because the Articles of Confederation did not provide for an executive branch of government.  A newly ratified Constitution changed all that and the deadline of January 7, 1789, was set for the Electoral College to convene for the selection of the first Chief of the Executive Branch who was to be called President.

In 1789, the Constitution allowed each state to determine the process by which electors would be selected.  Of the original 13 states, North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution and gridlock in New York prevented electors being sent from that state. Only six of the remaining ten states used popular vote to democratically select their electors, elected representatives selected electors in the other four and therefore the question of democracy or republic remained. 

One year later, the 1790 census showed a free population of 2.4 million and 600,000 slaves, but of the 3 million counted, only 1.3% of the population had cast a vote in the first presidential election.  Over the two and a quarter centuries since that first election, the right to vote has been greatly expanded.  Poll Taxes are now illegal and property ownership is no longer a prerequisite to ballot access. Constitutional protection of the right to vote came to African American males (1870) and others regardless of race, color or previous condition of servitude in 1870.  Less than 100 years ago, all women (1919) finally gained that constitutional right of suffrage. 

However, access to the ballot box is still being hampered. While it is imperative that voters be properly identified so that voter fraud be eliminated, our current system does as much to promote voter fraud as it does to prevent it.  Oklahoma law allows a person to vote with a ‘voter identification card’ that is really not a card and does not actually identify the voter.  The “card” is barely more than a slip of paper with a name, address and precinct number and it contains no photograph.  With this slip of paper, an imposter would be allowed to vote. 

Without the “card” the voter is required to present a government issued photo identification card.  For literally scores of reasons, there are displaced and homeless individuals with subsistence and survival priorities who are disenfranchised because their life circumstances do not allow them to maintain on their person sufficient documents to allow them to vote every couple of years.  Keeping track of a piece of paper pales in comparison to knowing where their next meal will come from or where they will be sleeping that night.  The majority of us don’t live that way, but we are kidding ourselves when we deny that truth.  The goal of our state should be to facilitate legitimate voters and prevent fraud.  A possible solution would be obtaining fingerprint scans when a citizen registers to vote.

Fingerprint scanners and readers are inexpensive and reliable identifiers in the absence of identification documents. Today all Oklahoma drivers have their fingerprints scanned at the tag office. Inexpensive fingerprint scanners are used in lieu of passwords on computers.  Inmates are prevented from going through cafeteria lines twice by fingerprint scans.  Many Oklahoma students’ lunch accounts are automatically debited by a fingerprint scan as they go through the school lunch line.

If our state’s goal is truly to prevent voter fraud and not disenfranchise citizens, this method of identification would be ideal.  Currently, with the state’s non-criminal fingerprint database is already protected from potential abuse. I am in the process of drafting language so that an economic impact can be obtained to determine if this method of identification would be a practical and feasible means of protecting the sanctity of the ballot box.

Like you, I love Oklahoma and would not want to live in a part of the country where a tomato is anything but a tomato and it would seem a shame to have fried po-tah-toes, but our absolute goal should be to eliminate all impediments to the ability of all citizens to vote in our “stop, you’re both right…representative democracy.”

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or eMail me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.