A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Oklahoma’s Conservativism


Q: Is Oklahoma as defiantly conservative as a chain e-mail says?

A: The state is one of the most Republican in the nation, but the message exaggerates Oklahoma’s laws on religion, immigration and guns.

FULL QUESTION

Some of this seems obviously incorrect, but I thought I would check it out!

An update from Oklahoma

[EET ]

• The state law passed today, 37 to 9, had a few liberals in the mix, an amendment to place the Ten Commandments on the front entrance to the state capitol. The feds in D.C., along with the ACLU, said it would be a mistake. Hey this is a conservative state, based on Christian values…!

Guess what……….We did it anyway.

• We recently passed a law in the state to incarcerate all illegal immigrants, and ship them back to where they came from, unless they want to get a green card and become an American citizen. They all scattered. Hope we didn’t send any of them to your state. This was against the advice of the Federal Government, and the ACLU, they said it would be a mistake.

Guess what……….we did it anyway..

• Yesterday we passed a law to include DNA samples from any and all illegals to the Oklahoma database, for criminal investigative purposes. Pelosi said it was unconstitutional.

Guess what……..We did it anyway.

• Several weeks ago, we passed a law, declaring Oklahoma as a sovereign state, not under the Federal Government directives. That, for your information, makes Oklahoma and Texas the only states to do so. Guess what………More states are likely to follow. Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, both Carolina’s, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, West Virginia, just to name a few. Should Mississippi act, so will Florida.

Save your confederate money, it appears the South is about to rise up once again.

• The federal Government has made bold steps to take away our guns. Oklahoma, a week ago, passed a law confirming people in this state have the right to bear arms and transport them in their vehicles. I’m sure that was a set back for the Kennedys and Ms Pelosi.

Guess what………We did it anyway.

By the way, Obama does not like any of this.

Guess what….who cares…were doing it anyway.

[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

We encourage readers to be skeptical of any chain e-mail that pops up in their inboxes. And, as this reader suspected, some of the claims in this message aren’t quite correct — but the underlying theme, that Oklahoma is passing laws that Democrats in Washington might not like, is true. And hardly a shocker.

For anyone who thought Oklahoma might be leaning blue, or even a touch purple, consider this: In November, 65.6 percent of voters in the state cast ballots for Republican candidate John McCain. That’s the highest percentage among all the states. (Wyoming was a close second.) Four years earlier, the tally was exactly the same — 65.6 percent backed George Bush, while 34.4 percent voted for Democrat John Kerry.

That said, the anonymous author of this e-mail muddles many of the details. Let’s take a look at each claim in turn:

  • Ten Commandments: It’s true that in April, the Oklahoma Senate passed a bill (HB 1330) by a vote of 37 to 9, calling for the construction of a monument to the Ten Commandments on state Capitol grounds. It wasn’t a bill to place the commandments on the “front entrance,” as the e-mail says, and the Senate vote didn’t make this law. But Gov. Brad Henry did sign the final legislation into law on May 18. The monument has to be constructed using private funds, and some legislators did raise concerns that it would face a legal challenge.
  • Illegal Immigrants: Oklahoma didn’t pass a law “to incarcerate all illegal immigrants,” but it did pass HB 1804, which was signed into law in 2007. That law makes it a felony for anyone to transport or to “conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection any alien … knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.”The law also makes it illegal for businesses, governments and other organizations to issue identification cards to illegal immigrants, and it requires companies doing work for the state to verify their employees’ immigration status using a federal electronic system. That last provision, and other employment measures, were still being blocked by a court challenge this month.
  • DNA Samples: A state law (SB 1102) signed by the governor in May, requires that law enforcement collect DNA samples from illegal immigrants arrested for any crime — not from “any and all illegals” as the e-mail claims.
  • Sovereign State: The Oklahoma Legislature passed a joint resolution reasserting the state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment and declaring that the federal government should “cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.” The resolution, which doesn’t carry the weight of law, was vetoed by the governor in April. The Legislature then passed a concurrent resolution on the matter, which doesn’t require the governor’s signature. A similar 10th Amendment resolution is still pending in the Texas Legislature. But the suggestion by the e-mail’s author that this will lead to a revival of the old Confederate States of America overstates the intent of such resolutions. They’re confirming what’s written in the U.S. Constitution, after all, not stating any kind of desire to secede from the union.
  • Guns in Cars: The last item in the e-mail may refer to a February appeals court decision upholding an Oklahoma law that says employers must permit employees to keep guns in their locked cars at work if they wish. The law was actually passed in two stages in 2004 and 2005, but it had been blocked by a Tulsa judge’s court order in 2007. It’s worth noting that it was a federal judge that overturned an Oklahoma judge’s order on this one. We don’t know what “bold steps to take away our guns” the author of the message is referring to, but the U.S. Supreme Court last summer ruled that individuals have the right to bear arms for personal use.

The claims that the Kennedys, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama don’t like the legislation passed in solidly red Oklahoma are simply the author’s opinions.

–Lori Robertson

Sources

Election Results 2008 and 2004. Nytimes.com, accessed 21 May 2009.

Oklahoma Legislature. Bill Tracking Reports. State of Oklahoma, accessed 21 May 2009.

Hoberock, Barbara. “Capitol religious marker backed.” Tulsa World, 21 April 2009.

Hoberock. Barbara. “Henry signs Ten Commandments monument bill.” Tulsa World, 18 May 2009.

Harper, David. “HB 1804 in effect.” Tulsa World, 1 Nov. 2007.

Associated Press. “Oklahoma: State defends law aimed at illegal immigrants,” 4 May 2009.

McNutt, Michael. “DNA sampling will expand in Oklahoma.” The Oklahoman, 21 May 2009.

McNutt, Michael. “House bypasses governor’s veto to claim Oklahoma’s sovereignty.” The Oklahoman, 5 May 2009.

Associated Press. “State Senate adopts sovereignty resolution,” 13 May 2009.

Texas Legislature. HCR 50. Texas Legislature Online, accessed 21 May 2009.

Boczkiewicz, Robert. “Guns-in-vehicle law ruled valid.” Tulsa World, 19 Feb. 2009.

Greenhouse, Linda. “Justices Rule for Individual Gun Rights.” New York Times, 27 June 2008.