No matter the outcome of Tuesday’s election (this column was penned on Monday), early voting indicates there is a huge, nationwide surge of interest in American politics and government this year. As of Monday afternoon, totals showed more than 31 million Americans and counting had already voted early or absentee.
To put this number in context, that is far more than the 22 million early votes cast in the 2014 election. According to the election data firm Catalist, 33 states have already eclipsed their early voting totals from this point in 2014. Younger voters are also showing better engagement this campaign season, which bodes well for the future.
The news is also good here at home. According to Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax, more than 165,000 Oklahomans voted early in the three-day window allowed by law. That is more than twice the 70,000 early votes cast in Oklahoma during the 2014 cycle.
Following this election, when the ballots are all counted, many of us will continue the work we have begun on key issues. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy has been discussing ideas for legislation with those lawmakers who have already been re-elected, either by virtue of not drawing an opponent or winning their seat with no opposition from another political party. I feel confident, with more than 70 percent of the Oklahoma Legislature having served two years or less in that office, we will have opportunities to overcome much of the hyper-partisan rhetoric we have seen over the recent months at all levels of public service.
No matter who receives the most votes, I want to personally thank each man and woman who put their name down at filing to offer themselves up for service. The winner of each race will give up quite a bit of their privacy and time with their friends and families to serve in office, and not enough thanks are given to those who serve. I valued my constituents when I served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and I hope each of those who win office will not forget the people who sent them to their position. I also hope when there is a question of what path to take on an issue, the person in office will choose to promote the overall best interests for their district, our state and our nation.
It will be up to you, the voter, to hold your elected official accountable. Please do not let your duty stop with voting. It is imperative that policymakers hear from diverse voices they represent so they can make wise decisions while in office. On Nov. 7, do not grow complacent, as the real work starts the day after the election. Only we can ensure Oklahoma moves ahead of where we are now, especially for the children who deserve better opportunities for a brighter future.