Absentee voting focus of legislative interim study

September 9, 2021 | Headlines

OKLAHOMA CITY — Three state lawmakers hosted an interim study Wednesday on Oklahoma’s absentee voting processes.

Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Joanna Dossett, D-Tulsa, used the study to better understand the state of elections in Oklahoma, problems Oklahomans face when voting, and solutions that ensure wide participation while maintaining election security.

Study presenters included Paul Ziriax, Secretary of the Oklahoma State Elections Board, the Oklahoma League of Women Voters, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Honest Elections Project.

“More than 5,000 absentee ballots were rejected in 2020 because of simple mistakes,” Fugate said. “One in four Oklahomans voted absentee last year. They deserve the same protections and privileges as those who cast a traditional ballot on election day. That’s why I ran House Bill 1843 this year, which gives those voters the opportunity to have their votes corrected and counted.”

Oklahoma has one of the most efficient election systems in the country. However, many feel that efficiency is enabled by the relatively small number of Oklahomans who actually vote. 

“Oklahoma elections are already free and fair – but a few reasonable reforms can make it easier for more citizens to vote. We owe it to them to offer better access,” Waldron said. 

Moving forward, the lawmakers who hosted the study identified a common goal of improving voting availability for all eligible Oklahomans. 

“Oklahomans should be proud of our already reliable and secure elections,” Dossett said. “It’s now time, and we have the capacity, to focus on increased voting accessibility for all Oklahoma voters.”

One piece to the puzzle is expanding access to public transportation for Oklahomans with disabilities.

“People with disabilities rely on public transportation,” said Lindsey Spoon, a member of the Oklahoma Disabilities Council. “That’s a fundamental barrier for many to appear in person or to even get to a notary.

“Voting should be accessible to everyone.”

The study was presented in the House Elections Committee, under the direction of Chairman Jim Olsen, R-Roland. 

“Access, security and integrity are critical aspects of the election process.  Access must be reasonable and appropriate for all qualified voters,” Olsen said. “Security and integrity must be very strong, so that we all can have confidence that the final vote tally is indeed an accurate reflection of the will of the people. This study was both productive and insightful, as these issues were looked at from different vantage points. I appreciate the hard work of everyone that initiated and  contributed to this study.”

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