Welcome to the 2022 Oklahoma Voter Guide
From Michael Wallis
MICHAEL WALLIS, award winning author of nineteen books, has won numerous honors. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Tulsa.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
Dear Fellow Oklahomans,
Whenever the election season approaches, we often hear the same cliché — “Every vote counts.” However, those three words have not lost their power but instead continue to gain power. They will always be worth repeating — every vote counts and every vote matters.
Simply put, voting is the cornerstone of representative democracy. It empowers citizens by giving them a voice in determining who represents them. Voting ensures that the candidates chosen remain accountable to their constituents.
Yet in Oklahoma, we often experience low voter participation. Many registered voters from all political parties in the state fail to take part in the electoral process, the most basic act of citizenship. Excuses of voter fatigue and voter apathy are unacceptable. The act of voting should never be taken for granted. Complacency is not an option but a threat that undermines true democracy.
Fortunately, historians who have chronicled Oklahoma’s electoral past have provided insights and lessons to guide us in the present and the future.
One historian instrumental in that effort was Muriel Hazel Wright. Born in Indian Territory in 1889, Wright traced her descent on her mother’s side to passengers aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Her paternal grandfather was Allen Wright, principal chief of the Choctaw Nation who, in 1866, suggested the name “Oklahoma” for the territory.
Muriel Wright’s biracial heritage inspired her passion for history and for tribal policy making. Her body of work tells the true and accurate story of Native Americans’ struggle to adapt to change after the removal to Indian Territory. Wright’s textbooks explaining Oklahoma’s evolution to statehood became mainstays in public schools. Her writing about the tribes of Oklahoma remains relevant to this day.
Wright’s distinguished career began at a time when both she and her tribe faced difficult obstacles. In those early years, few female historians were included in male-dominated academic circles, women were unable to vote, and Native Americans still struggled to acquire full U.S. citizenship. And like African Americans had been doing since 1865, those groups also sought legal protection of their voting rights.
With passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Wright was able to vote. Yet even after the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, the right to vote was governed by state law, which meant several individual states continued to deny tribal members from voting for many years.
Muriel Wright lived to see federal law enacted that enforced amendments stipulating all adult citizens in Oklahoma, regardless of race and gender, could go to the polls and vote. Wright died in 1975, 10 years after the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. That law ended the many racist strategies that for too long had prevented African Americans and Native Americans from exercising their right to vote.
Remember the long journey of all those who fought and suffered to achieve a right they had been denied for so long. They knew that you have to vote as if your life depends on it – because it does. They understood that every vote counts.