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AM NewsBrief: Nov. 10, 2022

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This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

Voter turnout on par with 2018

Voter turnout in Oklahoma’s Tuesday election was barely over 50%. 1.1 million Oklahomans turned out to vote in the midterms.

That total is on par with the 2018 midterm election but significantly lower than turnout in the 2020 general election, which featured a presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Oklahoma has long struggled with voter engagement.

One 2020 analysis found the state is the lowest in the nation for voter participation despite years of efforts to get more people involved.

Those who voted Tuesday make up half of Oklahoma’s total voting population of 2.3 million people.

Turnout in rural Oklahoma was critical to Republicans’ victory.

In the governor’s race, Democrat Joy Hofmeister won the state’s three most populous counties – Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland – which has roughly 1 million voters combined, but also had a similar turnout to that of the entire state.

Gov. Kevin Stitt secured more voters in rural Oklahoma, propelling him to victory.

More election results are available here.

NPS Bullying Lawsuit

The mother of a Norman Public Schools student filed a lawsuit against the district over a bullying incident last week.

The Oklahoman reports Norman mother Adrienne Johnson accused Norman Public Schools of negligence in the case of her mentally disabled son being physically attacked and called racial slurs by another student at Alcott Middle School earlier this year.

Johnson’s son was supposed to be receiving instruction in a separate classroom to accommodate for his disabilities, but at the time of the incident, he was in a classroom with other students.

A video of a student pushing Johnson’s son was shared widely on social media, gaining attention from former OU football coach Bob Stoops and NBA player Trae Young.

Johnson is asking for over $75,000 in damages.

SCOTUS Hears ICWA

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Over three hours, Justices were asked questions about Congress's plenary or complete power over tribal nations and whether it applied to family law. They also asked if citizenship was a proxy for race.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs told justices the system that some child welfare advocates have called a gold standard in family law is against the best interest of Native kids in foster care because there aren't enough placements to meet the standards of the law. But Cherokee Nation officials told us that's not the case in Oklahoma.

Chrissi Nimmo, Cherokee Nation's Deputy Attorney General was there during the arguments. She was involved in the Baby Veronica case several years ago.

"I left hopeful today. And I think that our attorney did a really great job. The five intervening tribes  were all represented by the same attorney. And I think we all felt. You know, our voices were heard," said Nimmo.

Cherokee Nation is party to the Brackeen v. Haaland case and attorneys told justices Native tribes are not groups based on race but sovereign nations recognized by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

Parole Board policy changes

There have been some changes to parole policy in Oklahoma.

Administrative parole for compliant nonviolent offenders was expanded earlier this month to include prisoners within six months of release.

Unlike in the past, prisoners also can’t refuse administrative parole.

The changes, dictated by House Bill 4369, come as the state parole board is looking to overhaul many of its other policies. At the board’s regular meeting earlier this week, Director Tom Bates said the board is close to hiring a part-time attorney to help full-time attorney Kyle Counts with the shift. Bates said the agency will be interviewing attorney candidates in the coming weeks.

OKC Zoo announces names of lion cubs

The Oklahoma City Zoo has announced the names of four African lion cubs.

The female lions have been named Neema, meaning "grace," Zahara, meaning "flower," and Makena, meaning "happiness." The male lion's name is Mshango, which means "surprise."

The names come after the zoo held an online contest asking the public's help in choosing names. It has been 15 years since a litter of African lion cubs was born at the OKC Zoo.

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