OKLAHOMA CITY – On November 16, the 108th Oklahoma Statehood Day, the state Democratic Party officially opened its door to political Independents.
State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Hammons signed, and delivered to the State Election Board, a letter announcing that voters registered in Oklahoma as Independents will be allowed to vote in Democratic Party primaries and runoff primaries.
Independents are “the fastest growing group of voters in Oklahoma,” Hammons said during a State Capitol news conference Monday morning. However, because of closed primaries, Independents “have no say” in the selection of candidates by the two major parties in Oklahoma: Democrats and Republicans.
Delegates to a Democratic Party gathering on July 25 voted to open the party’s primary elections to Independents..
Chairman Hammons said at the Capitol ceremony the party decision was intended “to help us move Oklahoma to a new era of leadership and openness.”
Democratic leaders in the state House of Representatives and Senate, along with party leaders and supporters, “understand that the solutions to the problems facing our great state don’t come from one political party or one political ideology,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “[T]o truly make a difference, we must not act like some on the other side of the aisle who listen only to a loud and vocal minority of voters.”
Oklahoma can’t be improved by “excluding the voices and opinions of thousands of our Oklahoma friends and neighbors just because they dare to declare themselves as political independents,” Inman continued. “[Y]our voice and your vote matter. And from this day forward, we welcome you to share them with us. The future of our state depends on it.”
State Election Board records indicate Oklahoma has more than 261,000 registered Independents, almost 882,700 registered Democrats, and 886,000 Republicans.
Below is the prepared text of Democratic House Leader Scott Inman’s comments at the November 16 state Capitol event:
“Today marks a historic moment in Oklahoma political history. For at a time in which our politics have become more polarized; at a time in which Republican politicians in this state and around the nation are ever more focused on appeasing the far-right fringe of their political base and ignoring the issues and concerns of many, everyday Oklahomans.
“It is in this time that Democratic leaders in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate, along with our party leaders and supporters, understand that the solutions to the problems facing our great state don’t come from one political party or one political ideology. That to truly make a difference we must not act like some on the other side of the aisle who only listen to a loud and vocal minority of voters. And that if we are to improve and grow our beloved state, we must open our ears and our minds to those with whom we may not always agree.
“But we know that can’t be done by excluding the voices and opinions of thousands of our Oklahoma friends and neighbors just because they dare to declare themselves as political independents. So on this, the 108th Oklahoma Statehood Day, I’m honored to represent my caucus members and friends as the Oklahoma Democratic Party extends a warm invitation to the more than 261,000 registered independents in our state and opens our primaries to each and every one of them.
“So to Oklahoma’s independent voters I wish to say this: ‘We know your voice and your vote matter. And from this day forward, we welcome you to share them with us. The future of our state depends on it.’ ”