Oklahoma lawmakers seeking to change voting initiatives

With the presidential elections around the corner, Oklahoma lawmakers seek to change some of the election and ballot initiatives.

The 2024 presidential election cycle is on the horizon, and Oklahoma lawmakers are seeking to change the voting process through more than 90 proposed election and ballot initiatives. Roughly one-fifth of the bills proposed are shell bills titled “Oklahoma Elections Reform Act of 2023”. They are currently tasked with providing more substantial language before the bills can be considered. The legislative committees will be taking up bills starting on Feb. 6 and committees will have until March 2 to advance out of committee and into their chamber of origin.

Democrats and Republicans both have substantial bills that they want to be considered, but Democrat bills are facing substantially more pushback because the Republican party controls both the House and the Senate in Oklahoma. The House and the Senate Democrats have proposed eliminating Oklahoma’s straight-party voting option on ballots, extending voting hours to include earlier in the morning to allow more time for people to vote and a deadline of the end of the year for online voting to be launched.

Republicans have filed at least 80 election-related bills. These bills can change absentee ballot voting requirements, increase daily compensation for precinct officials, modify school board election dates, and raise the threshold for state-question bills to pass from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority and would limit state-question bills to odd-numbered years only.

Another bill under consideration is in regard to petition bills. The petitions would now have to receive a percentage of signatures from each county of the state before advancing forward. Petition organizers are against the bill, claiming that Oklahoma already has some of the most strict petition requirements of any in the nation and that further requirements to move petition bills forward would stop any but the best-funded groups from meeting the demands.

Another petition-based bill requirement that Oklahoma has enacted is signature verification, which has slowed and in some cases, completely prevented bills from appearing on the intended ballot. In November, recreational marijuana was supposed to be on the ballot for Oklahoma voters to give their opinions, but due to signature verification delays, it did not make an appearance on the ballot. Now, a special election is being held on March 7 for it. Petitioners are concerned about voter turnout not being great enough to allow the vote to pass because people do not have time to vote, or will forget about the special election being held.

Oklahoma currently has several election safety measures in place, which make Oklahoma polling locations “one of the most accurate and secure voting systems in the entire world,” according to State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax in a press conference last November. These measures include a uniform paper-based voting system and a secure network to transmit the results to help maintain a secure election system. Following the primary election on June 28, state election officials conducted their first post-election audit, and no discrepancies were found between the certified election results.

Post Author: Erika Brock