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.
Articles about voting issues in Oklahoma.
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.
Soon the Oklahoma House of Representatives will vote on Bill 2277 to clarify voting rights for ex-felons. The proposal authored by State Representative Regina Goodwin passed committee in a 6-0 vote. Current Oklahoma law states a completed prison sentence also completes a ban from voting. However, Goodwin said not every former offender knows they have that right. “I was knocking on doors and there was a man that had been sitting there for 35 years and he said to me he couldn’t vote, that really hurt. And I said, ‘Why are folks thinking they can’t vote?” said Goodwin.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
A law that goes into effect Nov. 1 will permit electronic voter registration in Oklahoma. This is one of several election reform measures introduced in the Legislature this year by Sen. David Holt. Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers took initial steps to address what he calls a “civic participation crisis,” but adds that more needs to be done. “Improving voter turnout is going to be a long process, and the responsibility is by no means limited to policymakers,” he said. “We all have to take ownership.” About 40 percent of registered voters participated on Nov. 4 when Gov. Mary Fallin won re-election over Democratic challenger Joe Dorman. But the true voter participation rate was less than 30 percent, considering how many eligible citizens were not registered to vote.
A law that goes into effect Nov. 1 will permit electronic voter registration in Oklahoma. This is one of several election reform measures introduced in the Legislature this year by Sen. David Holt. Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers took initial steps to address what he calls a “civic participation crisis,” but adds that more needs to be done.