Oklahoma Senate sends to governor measure aiming to ‘protect election integrity’ in absentee voting process

The Oklahoma Senate voted 38-9 to approve a bill Thursday (May 7) aiming to “protect election integrity in the absentee ballot process.” The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, is author of the bill. A release from the state Senate’s communications staff said the measure aims at “preserving the absentee ballot process while granting exemptions during the course of the coronavirus health pandemic.”

In a statement included in Thursday’s press release, Pro Temp Treat said, “Unfortunately, the Oklahoma Supreme Court legislated from the bench on Monday. Oklahomans need to have confidence that our election process is secure and free from fraud. This measure upholds the integrity of our absentee ballot process while also making it easier to vote absentee during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic all in an attempt to protect the health and safety of voters and election workers. 
“Through the ballot box and in our Constitution, Oklahomans have made it abundantly clear they want our elections free from fraud and interference. The Legislature has followed through and enacted measures to uphold and protect our election process. This is a good solution that addresses concerns raised about voting during a pandemic, while also maintaining the integrity of the absentee ballot process.”

As summarized in Thursday’s press release, Senate Bill 210 includes these provisions:
    •  Requires voters to have absentee ballots notarized, which has been the standard in Oklahoma for well over 50 years.
    •  Allows voters to submit absentee ballots with a copy of their identification or voter identification card, in lieu of having it notarized, if a public health emergency has been declared within 45 days of an election. That is expected to include the June 30 primary election.
    •  The bill also allows residents of long-term care facilities and veterans’ centers to vote absentee under existing Election Board procedures for those facilities that would be enhanced by allowing a facility official to be deputized by an election official to enter the facility to collect required documentation.
    •  Those ill with COVID-19 who cannot leave their home, those suffering from symptoms of COVID-19 and those in high-risk categories can be considered “physically incapacitated” and can have an absentee ballot sent to their home.