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The Oklahoman

Oklahoman Editorial: Option Play
2002-12-08

SOME Democrats are still contesting the 2000 presidential vote, claiming that George W. Bush stole the election and was appointed rather than elected president.

State Sen. Frank Shurden must be fascinated by that sour grapes attempt to rewrite history. He's contesting the passage of State Question 687, claiming that voters didn't really want a statewide ban on cockfighting.

Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide in 2000, but he lost the popular vote in Florida. Which means he lost the Electoral College vote. Which means everything.

SQ 687 passed statewide but failed to carry 57 of Oklahoma's 77 counties. In Shurden's mind, this means citizens in those counties should not be subject to the ban. Shurden, D- Henryetta, says he'll introduce a bill that restores legal cockfighting in the 57 counties and allow the other 20 counties to vote for legalization.

But if 687 doesn't mean what it said -- that cockfighting is banned statewide -- why would those 20 counties even need an election? Shouldn't the county commissioners void the ban in any voting precinct where 687 failed? Why stop at county option? Let each neighborhood decide if cockfighting is OK!

This absurd reasoning makes a mockery of the system. Nothing is wrong with county option, but 687 wasn't about county option. New Mexico allows cockfighting by county option. Oklahoma allows liquor by the drink by county option. County option could have been a component of 687, but it wasn't.

Bush won enough electoral votes to become president. Gore did not. Love it or hate it, the Electoral College is the system by which we elect presidents.

Shurden hopes to convince enough lawmakers that the system failed with 687, that voters who pick a losing candidate or cause shouldn't have to live with the results. Gee, should the counties that supported Steve Largent get to send him to the governor's office for two days a week, making Brad Henry step aside? No. Henry won statewide, although he didn't win in every county.

Shurden got legislators to approve a bill allowing for the castration of sex offenders. It was vetoed. He got legislators to sign off on a state question that would have increased the signature requirement for initiative petitions involving animal issues. Voters defeated it.

The senator has shown an ability to get bills passed. If this bill makes it through, Henry must respect the wishes of the majority and veto it.

Legal challenges to 687 are frustrating voters who supported the measure, but these challenges are part of the system. Organizers of 687 invited challenges by making the measure unnecessarily punitive. State courts will sort this out, just as federal courts sorted out the Bush-Gore election.

Shurden and others are incensed that big margins in urban areas overcame the anti-687 vote elsewhere. Welcome to political reality, senator. Urban voters are inured to seeing rural interests dominate the Legislature. They've seen road projects funded according to the clout of rural legislators rather than the traffic counts of the big cities.

In all statewide political campaigns, candidates try to win blocs of voters and build a majority. Rarely does a candidate win in every county. Bush and Gore used the same strategy to win individual states and thus their electoral votes. This is how Bush beat Gore.

SQ 687 passed with 56 percent of the vote statewide, a comfortable margin that leaves no wiggle room for interpretation. Yet Shurden is squirming in his seat, convinced that a landslide victory for 687 somehow translates to a stolen election.