Oklahoma power outages won’t stop Tuesday’s election | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

Tuesday’s election will go on as planned even if some polling places are still affected by power outages from the ice storm that rocked the Oklahoma City metro area last week. Power companies have put a priority on restoring electricity to polling locations, state officials said last week. “If any of our local election locations actually report an outage, we’re responding to it as a critical emergency,” said Mark Gower, Department of Emergency Management director. Gower said he asked OG&E and other power companies to prioritize restoring electricity to those locations. If power cannot quickly be restored to some polling places, the department is working on supplying generators in time for Election Day. OG&E’s director of Corporate Affairs, Brian Alford, said crews are planning on having power restored to all polling locations within its service area before Election Day. “We continue to coordinate with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to make sure polling stations have power for Tuesday’s elections,” he said. “According to our most recent data, power has been restored to the vast majority of polling places within our service area — more than 96% of the approximately 800 stations.”

Full Article: Oklahoma power outages won’t stop Tuesday’s election

Oklahoma: Democratic groups challenge absentee voting laws | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is suing the state Election Board over several voting procedures they say “severely burden” the right of Oklahomans to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are asking a federal judge to declare several of Oklahoma’s voting provisions unconstitutional. In the lawsuit filed this week, the groups ask a judge to block the state from enforcing the state’s notary requirement so long as absentee voters have signed their ballot affidavit. The lawsuit calls the notary requirement or the alternative requirement that voters must submit a copy of an identification card with their absentee ballot, “onerous and unnecessarily burdensome.” Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt recently reinstated the state’s notary requirement for absentee ballots. They also added some provisions to state law that make some exceptions if Oklahoma is in a state of emergency before upcoming elections, which likely will apply to the June 30 primary.

Oklahoma: Governor signs bill to reinstate notary requirement for absentee voting | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday signed legislation to reinstate the requirement that absentee ballots be notarized. The legislation that reverses an Oklahoma Supreme Court order from Monday that incited a fierce partisan battle in Oklahoma’s Legislature. Citing concerns that not requiring absentee ballots to be notarized would lead to voter fraud, the Republican majority in both chambers supported legislation to bring back the notary requirement, but include some exceptions while the state is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. “Oklahomans need to have confidence that our election process is secure and free from fraud,” said Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “This measure upholds the integrity of our absentee ballot process while also making it easier to vote absentee during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic all in an attempt to protect the health and safety of voters and election workers.”

Oklahoma: House Republicans vote to reverse court ruling on absentee ballots | Kayla Branch and Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

Mere days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a requirement that absentee ballots be notarized, House Republicans moved Wednesday to reverse the ruling. Despite fierce opposition from House Democrats, Republicans passed an amended bill that seeks to reinstate the notary requirement. The amendment’s author, Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, said the legislation was born out of recommendations from State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax, Oklahoma’s top elections official. Senate Bill 210, which passed the House on a near-party-line vote, would require absentee ballots to be notarized, which was the procedure in place until the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered otherwise on Monday. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Senate Bill 210 makes exceptions that would be in place for the June 30 primary election.

Oklahoma: State Supreme Court strikes notary requirement for absentee ballots | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday struck down a requirement that absentee ballots must be notarized to be valid. An order issued Monday by Chief Justice Noma Gurich bars the Oklahoma State Election Board from issuing ballot forms or other election materials that suggest notarization is required. Instead, a statement signed, dated and declared under the penalty of perjury will suffice on absentee ballots. The order from the state’s high court requires the State Election Board to recognize the signed statements as proof that said voter did fill out their own ballot. The court’s ruling gives a win to the League of Women Voters, which sued the State Election Board over the notary requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The election rights group said the notary requirement was a “substantial obstacle” that absentee voters would have to face if they chose not to cast an in-person ballot due to concerns about COVID-19. Cancer survivor Peggy Winston said she joined the lawsuit because she believed undoing the notary requirement could save lives. “This is a victory for every Oklahoma voter who wants to exercise the right to vote but not risk their lives to do so,” she said.

Oklahoma: State responds to lawsuit over absentee voting | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

A lawsuit against the Oklahoma State Election Board seeking changes to the state’s absentee voting process in light of the COVID-19 crisis “seeks to resolve a temporary problem by inventing a permanent solution,” attorneys for the state wrote. Vice Deputy Attorney General Niki Batt and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schneider asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court Wednesday to toss a lawsuit filed last week by the League of Women Voters. Attorneys for the state responded to the lawsuit, saying changing absentee voter requirements would upend the will of Oklahoma’s Legislature and voters, according to court documents. With their eyes on the upcoming June 30 primary, the League of Women Voters is asking the state Supreme Court to prevent the State Election Board from enforcing a state law that requires absentee ballots to be notarized. Instead, the voting rights group is asking that voters be able to include on their ballot a signed statement swearing they are qualified to vote and marked their own ballot.

Oklahoma: State increases election security efforts | Addison Kliewer/NonDoc

With the end-of-the-year deadline to pass election security measures in Congress quickly approaching, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said Oklahoma has already taken steps to secure elections from foreign interference. Lankford, who has been pushing election security to keep American democracy from foreign interference, said there is “no question” that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 election. “We were one of the 21 states that were identified early by the FBI that the Russians tried to get into, but they couldn’t get into our system in 2016, so they moved along to others,” Lankford said. In 2017, this information was brought to the Oklahoma State Election Board, encouraging the board to partner with numerous federal and state agencies to address the issue of election security. “We met regularly to discuss risks and plan for contingencies. We arranged for unclassified briefings and security training for county election officials, and shared ‘best practices’ with state and county election employees,” said Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax in a June congressional testimony.

Oklahoma: Voter registration spike follows state Election Board deal | Associated Press

The number of people registering to vote at Oklahoma’s public service agencies has spiked in recent years, and voting rights advocates are crediting a settlement with the state Election Board. The Oklahoman reports that the 2015 settlement was reached after state and national organization threatened to sue unless the board did more to help register potential voters at public offices, as required under federal law. Those offices included the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Since then, the average number of monthly voter registrations from the agencies has tripled, from less than 500 per month to almost 1,500 per month, according to state election data.

Oklahoma: Voting rights advocate praises Oklahoma in expanding registration access | Tulsa World

Voting rights activists on Tuesday praised Oklahoma’s efforts to make registration more accessible under the National Voting Rights Act. “Oklahoma has tripled the numbers of people registering through public assistance agencies since 2015,” said Brenda Wright, senior advisor for legal strategies at Demos, a New York-based non-profit that advocates for ballot access and other causes. “The state should be commended for its impressive commitment to our shared American value that every eligible voter should be able to vote come Election Day,” Wright in a news release. “By implementing a comprehensive plan for voter registration services at these agencies across the state, Oklahoma has exemplified the NVRA’s principle and promise: States must do their part to bring all Americans into our democracy.”

Oklahoma: County officials resist efforts to expand early voting in Oklahoma | Enid News & Eagle

As the popularity of early voting continues to rise, some lawmakers are reviving a plan to make it easier for Oklahomans to vote. But they likely will run into continued resistance that has given Oklahoma the shortest in-person early-voting period among the many states that allow early voting. Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said Senate Democrats are preparing legislation that would extend the time voters have to cast ballots through the in-person absentee option. Oklahoma currently has the shortest early voting period of the 37 states that offer early voting. State law allows voters to cast in-person absentee ballots on three days before Election Day: from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Oklahoma: With electronic voting under scrutiny, paper remains king in Oklahoma | Norman Transcript

From a national point of view, voting seems kind of scary at the moment. One story after another is surfacing about vulnerabilities in electronic voting systems. A quick internet search would likely bring up how it is possible to hack into some of them remotely, exposing Americans’ fundamental freedom to vote and leaving their political future up for grabs. But anyone who casts a ballot in Oklahoma can rest easy. Yes, it has those electronic machines that take ballots and count them digitally, but those are not the ones being talked about when it comes to hackers or vote manipulators.

Oklahoma: Photo ID law gets backing of state Supreme Court | Associated Press

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday backed a state requirement that voters provide a photo ID at the polls, the latest decision in a nationwide battle between voting rights advocates who say the laws are aimed at suppressing turnout and conservatives who say the protections are needed to prevent voter fraud. The court upheld a lower court ruling 8 to 0 with one justice recusing. “The Oklahoma Voter ID Act is a reasonable procedural regulation to ensure that voters meet identity and residency qualifications and does not cause an undue burden,” according to the 8-0 ruling, with one justice recusing, which upholds a lower court ruling in the lawsuit.

Oklahoma: Bill allowing ‘ballot selfies’ vetoed by Oklahoma governor | StateScoop

Oklahoma will not be the latest state to allow voters to take selfies with their ballots, after Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill this week that would’ve legalized the seemingly innocuous, but controversial practice. Fallin, a Republican, declined to sign a bill that would’ve allowed Oklahomans to take photos of their marked ballots, from either an absentee form or a voting booth, and share the images on social media. So-called “ballot selfies” have become increasingly popular over the past several election cycles, but ballot-security experts and elections officials in some states have become increasingly wary of the images’ potential to be abused.

Oklahoma: Lankford Prioritizing Cybersecurity Ahead of 2018 Elections | Public Radio Tulsa

Another round of federal elections is just months away, and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford has a bill to guard them against foreign interference. Provisions of the Secure Elections Act would help push out paperless voting systems and encourage all states to audit their elections after they’re finished. Lankford told CNN states will still be running their elections. “But where states are not keeping up their equipment, we need to be able to encourage those states and help provide some grants to those states to say, ‘Go take care of your equipment,'” Lankford said. “We don’t want to have at the end of the next election a guess that the election had fraud in it, that they got into an election system.”

Oklahoma: Lawmaker resignations cause growing special election costs for state | News OK

With various legislator scandals and resignations, the Oklahoma State Election Board is on track to spend as much as a quarter of a million dollars on special elections this year. Eight state legislators have resigned their seats early since Dec. 31, 2016. Along with multiple resignations due to various sex and malfeasance scandals at the Oklahoma Legislature, a few lawmakers also have stepped down over the past year to take new full-time jobs. Among three special elections scheduled for Nov. 14 is one to replace Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, who died while in office.

Oklahoma: Legislature Slow to Adopt Changes to Ease Voting Laws | Oklahoma Watch

More than 60 legislative bills have been filed since 2015 that seek to expand or create new options for Oklahomans to vote or register to vote. But an Oklahoma Watch review of the legislation considered during the past three sessions shows that most didn’t even get a committee hearing. All but 10 failed to reach the governor’s desk. Among the survivors, the most potentially significant one – approved in 2015 to allow online voter registration – may not take effect for two to three more years, meaning most voters in the 2018 elections will likely encounter few changes that appreciably improve voter convenience or efficiency.

Oklahoma: As Court Challenge Continues, Oklahoma Looks to Solidify Voter ID Law | Oklahoma Watch

The ongoing fight to overturn Oklahoma’s voter identification law – a legal challenge that has spanned more than five years – could soon face a new obstacle. The state Senate passed a joint resolution this week that seeks to amend the Oklahoma Constitution with language requiring “proof of identity” to be able to vote. In practice, this would have little to no impact on the state’s existing law that requires voters to show a voter ID card or a photo ID issued by the U.S. government, Oklahoma state government or an Oklahoma tribal government. Elevating the requirement to the constitutional level would better shield it from lawsuits, including one that is now before the state Supreme Court.

Oklahoma: Bill would eliminate straight-party voting in state | Tulsa World

A state lawmaker has filed a bill that would eliminate straight party voting. Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, is the author of Senate Bill 9. “I think it is unnecessary to have the straight-party option,” Dossett said Monday. “I think it is something that might have had value in the past when people couldn’t inform themselves on the candidate and vote.” Ten states including Oklahoma offer straight-party voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The number of states offering it has been declining in recent years, according to the NCSL. Dossett said it probably benefited Democrats when they were in power and now benefits Republicans. His filing of the measure is not related to the recent elections, Dossett said.

Oklahoma: Judge dismisses challenge to Oklahoma’s voter ID law | Tulsa World

A more than four-year legal challenge to overturn Oklahoma’s voter identification law was rejected this week by a state district court judge, who upheld the constitutionality of the measure. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons dismissed the case Monday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the Oklahoma State Election Board and Tulsa resident Delilah Christine Gentges. Gentges’ attorney said he plans to appeal the decision. Gentges sued after 74 percent of voters approved a state question in 2010 that requires every voter, before casting a ballot, to show proof of identity issued by the U.S. government, Oklahoma state government or an Oklahoma tribal government. Like in many other states that have passed similar laws, voter-rights advocates here argued the requirement is unconstitutional because it interferes with residents’ right to vote.

Oklahoma: Online system aimed at raising Oklahoma voter registration | The Southern

Oklahoma election officials hope that a new online voter registration system will increase voter participation in the state. Since 2000, the number of people eligible to cast a ballot who haven’t registered to vote in the state has more than doubled, the Tulsa World reported Sunday. About 389,000 of the nearly 2.5 million eligible Oklahomans did not register in 2000, and that number grew to more than 800,000 of the total eligible population by 2014. The 30-to-39-year-old age group showed the biggest decrease in voter registration, falling from 82 percent to 62 percent. But the 18-to-29-year-old group continues to have the lowest percentage of registered voters, falling from 61 percent to 48 percent.

Oklahoma: Legislation filed to clarify voting state’s rights law | Tulsa World

Legislation intended to clarify state law pertaining to restoration of a convict’s voting rights has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, filed House Bill 2277 for consideration during the second regular session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature, which convenes Feb. 1. HB 2277 provides that anyone convicted of a felony could register to vote upon having “fully served” his/her sentence, “including any term of incarceration, parole or supervision,” or after completing a probationary period imposed by a judge.

Oklahoma: Lawmaker wants to clarify state law involving a convict’s voting rights | KTUL

An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to clarify the state law regarding a convict’s voting rights. Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa filed House Bill 2277 for the upcoming legislative session. The proposed bill states that anyone convicted of a felony could register to vote after having “fully served” his or her sentence, “including any term of incarceration, parole or supervision,” or after completing a probationary period imposed by a judge.

Oklahoma: State Will Soon Allow Online Voter Registration | News9

Oklahoma will soon join two dozen other states in allowing people to register to vote online. The law making this possible takes effect November 1, but News 9’s Alex Cameron tells us the system won’t be ready then. November 1 is when the state is officially authorized to begin working to put an online registration system in place, and it could take a while. The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. David Holt, says the hope is to have online registration available in time for the 2016 election, but there’s no guarantee.

Oklahoma: A Rare Red-State Accord for More Voter Access | The Atlantic

Nearly a year ago, a coalition of voter-advocacy groups wrote a letter to Oklahoma’s top elections official to deliver a stark, but not uncommon, message: The state had failed to comply with federal law. Specifically, the groups charged, Oklahoma was not giving citizens receiving public assistance an opportunity to register to vote, which is a requirement of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. “We hope to work amicably with you to remedy Oklahoma’s non-compliance,” the advocates wrote. “However, we will pursue litigation if necessary.” Such warnings are often a precursor to lawsuits, the kind of knock-down, drag-out legal fights that are filled with accusations of voter suppression and partisan chicanery. In North Carolina and Texas, the courts are weighing challenges to new voter-ID laws, and the Supreme Court recently delivered voter advocates a victory when it ruled that Arizona and Kansas could not require people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

Oklahoma: State, advocacy groups reach agreement on voter rights | Associated Press

Oklahoma residents who seek public assistance from various state agencies will be provided more opportunities to register to vote under the terms of a settlement agreement announced Thursday that would stave off a potential lawsuit over the state’s compliance with federal voting laws. Details of the settlement were released by the Oklahoma State Election Board and several voting rights advocacy groups that had voiced concerns about Oklahoma’s compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

Oklahoma: Voter encouragement: Legislature doing about-face on election reform | Tulsa World

After years of doing just about all it could to restrict voting, the Oklahoma Legislature is now trying to encourage it. Historically low voter turnout last year prompted lawmakers to come forward this session with dozens of election reform proposals. About a half-dozen remain in play. The proposals range from increasing the number of absentee ballots a notary public can notarize to an 80-percent reduction in the number of signatures needed for a political party to gain access to the ballot. Others include consolidating elections, online registration and a permanent absentee ballot list. All are Republican bills, and in most cases survived their first floor votes with little opposition.

Oklahoma: Legislature considering online voter registration | Associated Press

With more than a third of Oklahoma’s eligible voters not even registered, lawmakers are considering allowing online registration to make the process more convenient and renew interest in elections. An online voter registration bill that received bipartisan support in the Senate is among several measures regarding Oklahoma’s election process that are pending as the session passed the deadline for proposed legislation to be considered in the chamber of origin. In January 2005, more than 2.1 million people were registered to vote, according to state Election Board statistics. Ten years later and about 10 percent more residents, 119,280 fewer Oklahoma residents were registered to vote than in 2005. Last year’s general election drew less than 30 percent of Oklahoma’s eligible voters.