Oklahoma voters are unlikely to see big changes making voting easier or more convenient when they cast their ballots in this year’s crowded electoral lineup.
As part of Oklahoma Watch‘s commitment to reporting on election-related bills, I’ve written about what bills are still alive this year, a failed attempt to require all Oklahomans to reregister to vote after 2023 and ongoing efforts to make passing some state questions more difficult.
It’s also notable to look at what hasn’t passed this year.
Many bills seeking to expand voting and voter registration opportunities failed to make it out of committee and are essentially dead. Most saw a quiet demise without even getting a committee hearing.
This follows a trend I reported on back in 2017, when I reviewed hundreds of bills over several years and found voting-expansion bills rarely get debated in the Legislature. One of the few exceptions came last year after lawmakers passed a bill that added an extra early in-person voting day.
Bills to expand voting times and make voter registration easier didn’t fare well this year either.
Here are some of the proposals that will have to wait until next year to be considered:
- Automatic Voter Registration: Democrats have been trying for years to get Oklahoma to join the growing number of states that automatically register residents to vote. A bill requiring the state to set up such a system in the next two years from Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, did not get a hearing in the House Rules Committee.
- Rejecting Ballots: Oklahoma, unlike at least 18 other states, does not have a so-called “curing” process that would notify voters their ballot was rejected and allow them to fix their errors. A proposal from Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, sought to change this. The bill did not get a hearing in the House Rules Committee.
- Restoring Voting Rights: Another bill from Goodwin would have clarified when an individual convicted of a felony will be eligible to register to vote. She said it is needed because there has been “some controversy” on when ex-felons, who had a commuted or discharged sentence, can register. After some discussion, the House Elections and Ethics Committee rejected it on a 4-3 vote.
- More Early Voting Times: Several bills were filed before this session to further extend early in-person voting. One proposal from Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, would have given voters Monday through Friday and the two Saturdays before any election to cast their in-person absentee ballots. Currently voters only have three days (four days for presidential elections) to vote in-person absentee. The bill was eligible to be heard both this year and last in the House Rules Committee, but it did not get a hearing.
What do you think about these proposals? I plan to continue tracking election-related issues. Let me know what laws or policies you think should come to Oklahoma. You can email me at email@example.com or find me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.
Among the bills still alive this session is Senate Bill 1695.
The proposal would require gubernatorial appointees, including members of the governor’s cabinet, to complete and file financial disclosure forms with the state.
As Oklahoma Watch has previously reported, Oklahoma’s financial disclosure rules are far less robust than many other states and the federal government.
But this bill would close a loophole that open-government advocates have cited that has prevented the public from knowing about potential conflicts of interest in the state. The bill, authored by Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, passed the Senate on an unanimous and bipartisan 45-0 vote. It, however, will still need to clear the House before heading to the governor’s desk.
What I’m Reading This Week
- The State Legislature is considering a solution that would leverage technology to make expungement more accessible. [Oklahoma Watch]
- Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman John Bennett will continue to campaign against fellow Republicans while he also runs the state party. [The Frontier]
- Senate GOP lawmakers advanced on Thursday six bills to restrict abortions in Oklahoma after hours of debate and opposition from Democrats and far-right Republicans. [The Oklahoman]
- State Board of Education members approved permanent rules for the controversial HB 1775, which bans the teaching of certain concepts about race and gender in Oklahoma public schools. [NonDoc]
- Republican lawmakers said bills to block private dollars from helping pay for elections and changes to the personal information required to request an absentee ballot are key to ensuring Oklahomans have faith in the state’s election system. [The Oklahoman]
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