NORMAN, Okla. — Becki Maldonado, the Republican nominee for State Senate District 16, filed to change her voter registration to Democrat before filing to run for the Senate.
While she filed to change affiliation before running, the state election board doesn't process those requests from April 1 through Aug. 31 due to the primary election and primary runoff. Maldonado's voter registration change was processed on Sept. 1.
Maldonado, who said she has since registered to vote as a Republican, said she made the initial change because she was frustrated by Republican legislators' responses to the April teacher walkout.
"In the first week, I was really fed up with the Republicans and the way they were treating us teachers," Maldonado said. "I just decided that I was done."
After the walkout, Maldonado filed to run for SD 16, which was held by Norman's John Sparks before he termed out, but did so as a Republican, because her voter registration change hadn't been processed. Earlier this month, she received her new Democrat voter registration card in the mail and said she immediately called the election board.
“I went to the Cleveland County Election Board, and I’ve changed it back already,” Maldonado said. “My Democrat friends were very excited, and I had to tell them ‘Hold on just a minute.’”
It still could take about a week to process, she said, but by Election Day, Maldonado will be a registered Republican again. She said she’s been a Republican all of her life.
State election board public information officer Bryan Dean said there is no state law that would have prevented Maldonado running in the Nov. 6 general election or even taking office with competing party affiliations.
"The time to challenge candidacy is directly after the filing period," he said. "Legally, when she filed, she would have still been a Republican."
Dean noted that it is past the deadline to withdraw and the state has already started printed ballots, which means Maldonado would have appeared on the ballot as the Republican nominee regardless. He said the only time someone's voter registration impacts their candidacy, under state law, is when they file to run. Candidates must be a member of the party they're filing to run as for six months before they file.
Maldonado said she has always been a moderate Republican, and she was angered by the state's lack of respect for the education system.
"The teacher walkout wasn't just out of nowhere," she said. "We've watched education be slammed over and over again. It had gotten to the point where, if you're going to be that disrespectful, even though I'm a member of your party, and you're going to say these things to my face, then I don't want to be associated with you."
Maldonado said the walkout helped encourage voters to get rid of legislators who didn't support education funding increases.
"I'm thankful for the Republican citizens who spoke up against the anti-education legislators and how they have tried to oppress teachers," she said.
Maldonado will take on Democratic candidate Mary Boren in November. Ed Crocker, who was set to compete against Maldonado in the primary runoff, dropped out of the race due to the district's Democratic majority, he said. Senate District 16 covers west and central Norman and follows I-35 down to Noble and Purcell.