The Senate Rules Committee has advanced three of the proposals introduced by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, to modernize Oklahoma's election system and reverse declining voter participation.
"The three proposals approved in committee represent a great start to this important effort," Holt said. "I want to thank Rules Chairman Ron Justice for hearing these three bills, and the members of the committee for advancing them. The bills address significant contributing factors to our current low voter participation.
Consolidating local elections will help turnout by minimizing voter fatigue. Allowing online registration will have great appeal to millennial's, and probably voters of all ages. Allowing a voter to apply for permanent absentee status cuts out an unnecessary procedure."
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.
The three pieces of legislation advancing to the Senate floor were:
Senate Bill 312 (which passed in committee 11-0) consolidates all local candidate elections to one cycle in the spring or one cycle in the fall. Currently, for example, in Oklahoma City this year, school board and career tech board elections were held in February, but city council elections will be held in March.
Senate Bill 313 (which passed 11-0) allows eligible citizens with a driver's license to securely register to vote online. Over half the states offer this modern accommodation. Over a third of eligible Oklahoma voters are not registered to vote. Younger voters especially are not used to a world where such tasks cannot be accomplished online.
This legislation is co-authored by Minority Leader Randy Bass, who led an interim study on the issue last year.
Senate Bill 315, approved in the Rules Committee 9-0, allows voters to request to be placed permanently on the absentee voter list, rather than the current practice of requiring an unnecessary application each year.
Holt authored an additional seven election reform measures which will be eligible for consideration in the 2016 legislative session.