Those of us who serve in public have a tremendous responsibility to the people we represent. We’re entrusted to write and pass laws that determine what constitutes a crime and what the penalty should be—we also have the responsibility of deciding how state dollars should be spent. Because we have this authority, we are held to a higher standard by the citizens we serve.
It seems logical then that a person who is running for office should have to disclose up front whether they have had brushes with the law. But under current statutes, the Declarations of Candidacy required by the State Election Board do not ask candidates to reveal such information. The form asks for the candidates’ name, address, date of birth, what office they are running for, political affiliation—but nothing about whether they have been charged or convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.
In stark contrast, anyone seeking an appointment to one of the state’s many boards or commissions must fill out a very detailed four-page questionnaire. In addition to the kind of biographical information you’d list on a resume, you would also be asked some very pointed questions, like whether there is anything in your background that might become an embarrassment to you if it became public, and whether you had ever been investigated by any local, state or federal law enforcement agency. Applicants must also reveal whether they’ve ever been arrested for anything, and if they’ve ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Keep in mind all of this detailed information is for voluntary positions that often are an advisory role only.
It doesn’t make sense that we wouldn’t even require candidates for public office to disclose up front if they had ever been convicted of a crime. Hopefully that will change this year.
Senate Bill 287 would include that information in the Declarations of Candidacy. The candidate would have to declare what the offense was, when they were convicted, and if they currently were named in any outstanding warrants, here or in any other state.
This measure has already been approved at the committee level, and when it comes to the floor for a vote, I will give it my full support. The public deserves to know if someone running for office has been a law-abiding citizen.
Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 522, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.