Senator David Holt, R Oklahoma City, has introduced a comprehensive election reform package of nine bills and one joint resolution, all intended to increase Oklahoma’s rapidly declining voter turnout. The concepts proposed by Holt include transitioning Oklahoma to mail elections and adoption of a “top two” electoral system.
In 1992, over 70 percent of eligible Oklahomans participated in the presidential election, but by 2012, that percentage had plunged to only 52 percent, third-worst in the nation. In 2014, less than 30 percent of eligible voters participated in the statewide general election. A third of eligible Oklahomans are not even registered. There were fewer registered voters in 2014 than there were in 1988, even though the state’s population has grown 22 percent.
“Oklahomans are patriotic, but our voting record is undermining that reputation. Our plunging levels of civic participation are reaching crisis levels,” Holt said. “This is an important conversation our state needs to have. This matters because it influences everything else. Oklahomans hand over billions of dollars to government, and they need to stand up and be a part of this process or they likely won’t care for the results. Our republic cannot survive if these trends continue. I believe this package of bills, individually and collectively, would increase Oklahoma’s turnout.”
The following are summaries of each piece of legislation and comments by Holt:
- Moves Oklahoma to a mail election in 2020 and beyond
- All registered voters would receive ballot by mail and return it by mail or in person
- Oklahoma would be the fourth state to adopt this growing trend
- Reduces cost of machines and poll workers
- Addresses growing concerns over how to staff precincts in the future
“This is the concept most likely to dramatically improve Oklahoma’s voter turnout. The states with mail elections are enjoying turnout rates far higher than the national average. Receiving a ballot by mail reminds the voter to vote. It also saves time for the voter by not requiring them to stand in line at the polls.”
- Creates a “top two” electoral system in Oklahoma
- All candidates, including partisan labels, appear on ballot in August
- If no candidate receives over 50 percent, top two advance to November
- All voters are invited to both elections to choose their favorite
- Brings clarity to process – election day is for everyone, regardless of party or geography
- Brings growing independent voter base into the process
- Saves money by streamlining ballots and eliminating one of the three elections
“If you asked a ninth-grader how American democracy works, they would respond that all candidates appear on the ballot and all voters are asked to select their favorite. This is, of course, not how our process currently works, but it should. And it would under a ‘top two’ system proposed by this bill. Like mail elections, ‘top two’ is a growing trend. Its clarity has the potential to increase turnout and its inclusiveness helps to reach results that more credibly reflect the views of the electorate.”
- Consolidates all local candidate elections to a cycle in the spring or a cycle in the fall
“This increases turnout by not requiring voters to return to the polls time and time again. For example, in Oklahoma City this year, school board elections will be held in February and city council elections will be held in March. There is no rational reason for that to occur.”
- Allows eligible citizens to securely register to vote online
“Voter turnout percentages, already disappointing, actually overstate turnout in that they do not account for eligible voters who have not even registered. This group of unregistered citizens is now a third of the state. Rising generations of voters are simply not used to a world where simple tasks such as this cannot be accomplished online.”
- Allows unregistered citizens who have missed the 25-day deadline for registration to register and vote if they appear in-person to the county election board during early voting
“It is an irony inherent in the current process that an unregistered person is usually reminded that they have failed to register by election activity that occurs well after they have missed the deadline to register. This bill essentially extends that deadline to the Saturday before the election by giving those voters an opportunity to register at a place that is equipped for it.”
- Allows absentee voters to request to be placed permanently on the absentee voter list, rather than the current practice of requiring an application each year
“This is intended to increase turnout by eliminating an unnecessary procedure. This concept essentially adopts mail elections one voter at a time, and would not be necessary if mail elections were adopted as Oklahoma’s official system.”
- Modernizes various aspects of absentee voting
- Absentee voters could mail a copy of their ID rather than have their ballot notarized
- Absentee voters may drop off ballot in person and show ID
- Bureaucratic “in-person absentee” terminology is replaced by “early voting”
- System of separate forms for incapacitated absentee voters and no-excuses absentee voters is streamlined, though retaining the services offered to incapacitated voters
“Current absentee voting procedures are unnecessarily confusing and archaic. As one example of ways we can modernize these processes, many people have ready access to copiers but not a notary public. This bill acknowledges that.”
- Expands and streamlines early voting
- Adds Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons to early voting
- Makes the hours of operation the same each day
- Extends the same early voting opportunities to all elections for elective office
“One concept underlining this entire turnout effort is the idea that the procedures have to be intuitively understood by the public. Currently, Saturday voting is available for some elections but not for others, and at different times than the other days. Having variable early voting opportunities for different elections is unnecessarily confusing.”
- Lowers the signatures required to get parties and presidential candidates on the ballot
“Though I have no interest in supporting other parties, I believe in free will and am not scared of other candidates reaching the ballot. Oklahoma famously has perhaps the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation. This bill could incrementally increase turnout by bringing in voters who feel unrepresented by the existing options.”
- Gives the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to lower the signatures required to place issues on the ballot for consideration by the voters
“Interest in civic affairs is hindered by the fact that the people have been essentially shut out of Oklahoma’s petition and referendum process. I believe in free will and am not scared of seeing more petitions and referendums on the ballot. This could also increase turnout by involving Oklahomans more in the civic process and offering important questions for their consideration that have maybe been stopped by special interests.”
Oklahoma Policy Institute
Oklahoma’s most recent elections saw the lowest voter turnout in over 50 years. Less than one-third of Oklahoma’s voting age citizens participated in an election that chose the state’s governor, the entire Congressional delegation, and numerous other offices. In nearly two-thirds of state House races, the winning candidate took office without any opposition in the general election.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our democracy is broken,” said David Blatt, Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute. A new report from OK Policy examines what’s behind these disturbing trends and what Oklahoma can do to reverse them.
“As recently as 2006, Oklahomans voted at or above the national average,” said Blatt, who authored the report. “If Oklahoma passed reforms to make it easier, more of us would vote, and more regular people would have a say in the future of our state.”
In surveys, the top reasons given by the registered voters who don’t make it to the polls is that they were too busy, or that an illness or disability stopped them from voting
The report identifies a range of possible reforms to improve democratic participation in Oklahoma, which include:
- Voter Information Pamphlets - In at least 16 states, state law require that election officials publish and distribute a voter information pamphlet. that helps voters be more informed about the issues and candidates they are voting on.
- Online Voter Registration - Online registration, already in place in 13 states, saves money, increases the accuracy of voter lists, is easier for voters, and reduces the chances of Election Day mix-ups.
- Extend mail-in voting – Mail-in elections, in place in three states, are less expensive and administratively simpler to operate, and eliminate a host of problems associated with voters not being able to get to the polls or not knowing where to vote. Alternately, seven states currently allow voters to opt for “permanent absentee status,” which means that they will automatically be mailed an absentee ballot for each election.
- Ballot Access Reform – Oklahoma has the nation’s most restrictive ballot access laws. Lowering the threshold for political parties and independent Presidential candidates to get on the ballot, as well as reducing the signature threshold for initiative petitions, would give Oklahoma a fuller range of choices.
- Open Primaries - In Oklahoma, all primary elections are restricted to registered party voters, which leaves the growing number of political independents with no voice in selecting which candidate will appear on the general election ballot. A majority of states operate some form of open primary system.
- Instant Run-off Primaries – Oklahoma’s current primary run-off system consistently has been shown to depress voter turnout. An alternative is the instant run-off, or preferential ballot, which allows voters to more fully express their electoral preferences and encourages candidates to engage a broader range of voters.
“We can debate the best solutions, but we can’t deny that the current system is falling short,” Blatt said. “Hopefully this research will motivate more state leaders to take the problem seriously and make reforms that help more Oklahomans to be informed and engaged citizens.”
You can download the full report at okpolicy.org/brokendemocracy.
You can watch an animated video summarizing the report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzja2wjBExU.
Dec 16 2014 | Posted in General
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The Oklahoma Republican Party responded after news of the untimely death of Democrat 2nd Congressional District candidate Earl Everett after a car crash on Friday. It also responded to a statement by Oklahoma Democrat Party Chairman Wallace Collins in which he called for a special election.
OKGOP Chairman Dave Weston shared, ”We pray that the Earl Everett family will experience God’s peace in this time of hurt and grief. While we may disagree on policy our hearts mourn for their loss.”
Weston continued, ”It has also come to our attention that Democrat Chairman Wallace Collins is calling for a special election. We think this is unconscionable that Collins would be so callous to seek gain less than thirty-six hours from the untimely death of Mr. Everett. People have been voting absentee for a couple of weeks and have been voting in person starting this past Thursday. Suggestions from Wallace Collins that he will work to overturn the votes of an in-process election only serve to disenfranchise voters and disrespects the integrity of the process.”
Nov 4 2014 | Posted in General
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Friday is the deadline to register to vote in the November 4th general election.
Absentee ballot requests must be filed before October 20th.
Oct 9 2014 | Posted in General
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Early voting results have Steve Russell with a 13 percent lead over opponent Patrice Douglas, the lead fueled n part by Russell’s strong showing in absentee and early voting ballots.
Russell won absentees 1,188 to 946 and early voting ballots 308 to 221.
There are indications today’s Republican voter turnout could top the 249,069 total in 2010.
Absentee requests were on par with that year and early voting results this morning indicate moderate to heavy volume in some precincts.
There are several reasons the GOP vote today could be higher than in 2010:
1 – The spirited Senate race.
2 – The multi-candidate race for Congress in the 5th District.
3 – The contentious race for schools superintendent.
4 – The race for corporation commissioner.
5 – Ideal voting weather.
And, there are some reasons the turnout in some areas won’t be strong:
1 – The lack of a congressional primary in the 1st District.
2 – The lack of a serious challenge to Senator Jim Inhofe.
All of the major campaigns reportedly have aggressive voter turnout efforts underway.
Overall, the lack of interest in Democrat campaigns could dampen total voter turnout. In 2010, 263,688 Democrats voted in the primary election.
“Democratic turnout will be abysmal,” said Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor speaking to the Tulsa World. “They (Democrats) have a superintendent primary and that is about it.”
The polls close at 7 p.m. The McCarville Report will have returns as soon as they are available.
How’s the voting in your precinct? Let us know: email@example.com
Oklahoma’s statewide Primary Election is on Tuesday, June 24, but the deadline to request an absentee ballot is this Wednesday and early voting runs Thursday through Saturday.
Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said voters should be aware of several upcoming election-related dates and deadlines.
Last time to request an absentee ballot
Wednesday, June 18, 5:00 PM
Early (In-Person Absentee) Voting at County Election Board offices
Friday, June 20, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Thursday, June 19, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Saturday, June 21, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
NOTE: NO early voting on Mon., June 23
Election Day – Polls Open
Tuesday, June 24, 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Last time for mail absentee ballots to be received at County Election Board
Tuesday, June 24, 7:00 PM
Voter registration for the Primary Election is closed, but voters may still register for the August 26 Runoff Primary Election and November 4 General Election.
Oklahoma has a “closed” Primary system, meaning only registered voters of a political party may vote in that party’s Primary. However, Independent voters may vote in non-partisan races or questions on the ballot in their precinct.
Voters may use the State Election Board’s new Online Voter Tool (available at http://elections.ok.gov) to confirm their voter registration, find their precinct, view sample ballots, and track their mail absentee ballot.
Answers to common election-related questions, can be found online at the State Election Board’s website: http://elections.ok.gov.
Jun 17 2014 | Posted in General
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Voters have until Friday May 30 to register to vote in the June 24 Primary Election, Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.
Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website at http://elections.ok.gov. They are also available at county election boards, post offices, tag agencies, libraries and some other public locations.
Voters must either register in person or mail their registration forms in and have them postmarked before the deadline.
Sample ballots for the Primary Election are also available at county election boards and can be viewed online using the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool. The tool also allows voters to check their registration information, polling place and track absentee ballots. It can be accessed at http://elections.ok.gov.
May 28 2014 | Posted in General
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Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett buried his primary challenger, Councilman Ed Shadid, in Tuesday’s mayoral election.
With 224 of 235 precincts reporting, Cornett had 31,447 votes, or 65.7 percent, to 15,734, or 32.9 percent, for Shadid. Two other candidates, Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson, were drew 1.4 percent.
|235 of 235 Precincts Completely Reporting
|JOE SARGE NELSON
Mar 4 2014 | Posted in General
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A new state law effective November 1 changed the dates and times state voters have come to expect for in-person “early” absentee voting across Oklahoma.
“Starting this November, early voting days in Oklahoma have changed from Friday/Monday to Thursday/Friday,” explained State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax. “As a result, Thursday, Nov. 7 is the first day for in-person ‘early’ absentee voting in counties with elections on Nov. 12. The hours for early voting remain 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Early voting on Monday is discontinued,” Ziriax said.
These changes are occurring due to the 2013 passage by the Oklahoma Legislature of Senate Bill 869, which was signed into law last May.
In addition, Saturdays will continue to be early voting days for all state and federal elections. Because the Nov. 12, 2013, election is not a federal or state election, but rather a special election, no Saturday early voting will occur this month. However, whenever it’s available, the hours for Saturday early voting at County Election Board offices statewide will change to 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (previously, Saturday early voting began and ended one hour earlier). During federal and state elections, when voter turnout is often the heaviest, the Saturday early voting option provides voters with a third opportunity to vote early.
“These changes will help County Election Board officials to place their focus entirely on Election Day preparations, instead of conducting early voting during the day immediately preceding an election,” the state election board secretary explained.
For more information about absentee voting in Oklahoma, as well as other election-related information, visit the State Election Board website at: http://elections.ok.gov.
Nov 5 2013 | Posted in General
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