Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021
Capitol Watch

An Early Look at Whether Oklahoma Could Expand, Shrink Voting Access in 2022

Jessi Marker, 23, voted for the first time in Tuesday’s presidential election. Marker said she was particularly interested in voting on State Question 805 because of a “personal connection.” (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

By Trevor Brown | Capitol/Investigative Reporter

I hate to break it to all you, but before you know it, the 2022 elections will be here.

We are already less than a year away from the primary (June 28) and run-off elections (Aug. 23). And we are closing in on next year’s Nov. 8 general election. In addition to a slew of coming campaign announcements and the usual political jockeying that follows, this also means there isn’t much time for lawmakers to address any election-law changes.

Ballot access was a huge issue across the country last year as the COVID-19 pandemic and former President Donald Trump’s constant lies and misinformation about fraud in the president race put state election laws in the spotlight.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma became one of the few Republican-led states to expand, rather than restrict voting access.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 2663 with bipartisan support as they added an extra early-voting day for general elections. 

The new law comes as TexasGeorgiaIowaArkansas and several other states responded to unfounded and refuted claims about the 2020 presidential election by enacting laws making it harder to vote. 

I covered a House interim study last week to find out if Oklahoma will continue looking for ways to make it easier, or more convenient, to vote? Or will it join other Republican-led states that have looked to restrict how or when voters can cast their ballot?

You can read my full article here, but one of the interesting things I learned is that Oklahoma, unlike at least 18 other states, does not have a so-called “curing” process that would notify voters that their ballot was rejected and allow them to fix their errors so it can be counted. 

Because of this, there was no way to remedy the 1.8% of returned ballots (5,089 in total) from the presidential election.

But lawmakers have other tools, including further expanding the number of in-person early voting day offered by the state. Or lawmakers could go the opposite way and place new restrictions, in the same of security and election integrity, in the coming year?

What do you think? Does Oklahoma need to look at its election and voting laws. And what would you like to see changed. Let me know you thoughts by emailing me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or finding me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.

The Top Story

Jennings Stone south of Ada is among several rock quarries granted permits by the Oklahoma Department of Mines in the last few years. Now, a group of nearby residents who had concerns over the aggregate mines’ use of groundwater want the agency to redo the permit process after they uncovered a conflict between a hearing officer and an attorney for the companies. (Google Earth Photo)

Landowners: State Mines Agency Failed to Disclose Potential Conflict of Interest

A group of landowners and residents who have opposed nearby aggregate mines in south central Oklahoma are asking the state Department of Mines to redo several permits where the agency didn’t disclose a hearing officer and an attorney for the mining companies used to be married. 

Oklahoma Watch‘s Paul Monies reports even though the prior relationship was common knowledge at the state agency, the agency kept assigning the pair to cases. [Read More …]

Tweet Watch

Oklahoma Watch’s Whitney Bryen reported last week on a Oklahoma Senate interim study on youth suicide.

She found that sadly the rate of Oklahoma children dying of suicide is double the national rate.

As a result of the study, Bryen reported that two Democratic senators expressed interest in gathering more information through student surveys and law enforcement response to suicide attempts and completions. Find a full tweet thread on the meeting here.

What I’m Reading This Week

  • In Oklahoma, which consistently ranks among states with the highest rates of women killed by men, 2020 produced a record number of domestic violence reports. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • A federal official says Oklahoma is “not permitted” to carry out a new law that requires individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities to live in the state for five years before they can apply for certain state-funded services through Medicaid. [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Thursday he has submitted a request to the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector’s Office for an audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Stitt said he submitted the request following evidence of misuse of funds found in the audit of EPIC Charter Schools. [KOCO]
  • The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has backed away from earlier promises to adopt mandatory COVID-19 testing for staff and other precautionary measures even as a new surge of the Delta variant has swept across the state. [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma lawmakers will go back to the drawing table to craft new legislative redistricting maps based on the most recent census data.  Although legislators and Stitt approved House and Senate redistricting maps in the spring, U.S. Census Bureau data released in August shows some of the districts that were drawn based on population estimates have either too many or too few residents. [The Oklahoman]

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