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.
Articles about voting issues in Oklahoma.
For the first time, many Oklahoma voters will now be able to update some of their basic voter registration information online.
The first phase of online voter registration, which was operational Monday, allows Oklahomans to update their address or party affiliation online, said Paul Ziriax, election board secretary, in a statement.
Voters, however, must be already registered and have an address change within their current county in order to use the online service. Oklahomans who relocate to another county, change their name or who plan to register for the first time must still complete the paper form for a few more years, he said.
“Already registered voters who are changing their information, that accounts for a good portion of the registrations we receive,” said elections spokesman Bryan Dean.
As of December, 37 other states already offered online registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.