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Wayne Greene: Sen. James Lankford likes Oklahoma's voting system, which doesn't live up to Lankford's standards

Wayne Greene: Sen. James Lankford likes Oklahoma's voting system, which doesn't live up to Lankford's standards

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In his recent op/ed column explaining his initial plan to reject Electoral College votes from some of the states where Democrat Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, Sen. James Lankford seemed to contrast troubled voting processess in other states with those in Oklahoma.

After Wednesday’s rioting, Lankford did the right thing and did not object to the election’s results, but his comments about elections still bear examination.

“There are very few challenges after Oklahoma elections because of our clear and simple process and the hard work of our state election board and county election officials,” Lankford wrote.

I agree. For the most part, Oklahoma’s election process is excellent, although the current absentee voting rules are needlessly difficult and dangerous during a pandemic.

Still, Oklahoma’s election system is a model for other states. It provides quick, reliable results and a paper trail of ballots for verification.

Elsewhere in his column, Sen. Lankford seemed to be describing what he thinks would be a bare minimum of election standards that he thinks aren’t being met by some states.

“There is no question that there were some problems across the country with signature verifications, people receiving multiple ballots in the mail, different rules in some states for mail-in ballots than in-person ballots, double voting, last-minute election rule changes, ballot harvesting, delayed receipt of ballots, inconsistent curing of ballots and a lack of meaningful access to the polls or counting processes for partisan poll watchers,” he wrote.

That’s interesting to me because, from my analysis, Oklahoma’s model system doesn’t meet two of the standards he wants to require from other states.

“Signature verification” could mean different things to different people, but in Oklahoma it certainly doesn’t mean that anyone examines the signature of the person voting — absentee or in-person — to verify it matches the signature of the person who registered to vote.

If you vote in person, the election judge makes sure the signature substantially conforms to the name of the registered person, but certainly never makes sure it is the same handwriting. The judge requires the voter to produce a valid government-issued identification that has substantially the same name, but that’s far from verification as I understand that word. Your county election board voter ID doesn’t have your picture on it, so anyone with that card could vote in your name.

Doing any more verificat[on would be beyond the abilities of election workers and the constraints of an open, efficient election.

Oklahoma certainly has different rules for mail-in ballots than in-person ballots.

You don’t have to tell the election board ahead of time that you intend to vote in person. That’s a requirement for mail-in voting.

You don’t have to have your ballot notarized if you vote in person. You do if you want to mail in your ballot.

Most signficantly, the standard for voter verification is completely different for in-person and mail-in voters.

While the state requires specific forms of identification the election judges can accept at polling places, the standards for mail-in voting are as strict or lose as the notary makes them.

The state law says notaries must use regular statutory procedures. Here’s how state statute defines that:

“In taking an acknowledgment, the notarial officer must determine, either from personal knowledge or from satisfactory evidence, that the person appearing before the officer and making the acknowledgment is the person whose true signature is on the instrument.”

In other words, it can be as lax as “sure, I know you” or as strict as the notary wants. Your state driver’s license would be enough at your polling place, but if the notary doesn’t think that’s satisfactory evidence, you’re out of luck.

Of course, any smart absentee voter in that situation would simply find a different notary, but the point is the rules are clearly different. Oklahoma is doing a good job, Lankford says, but, at the same time, we’re not meeting his minimum standard.

That’s the sort of problem you create when you try to create a national standard for voting.

The Constitution has several important but broad election rules — prohibiting racial and gender discrimination and poll taxes and setting a standard minimum age for voters — but it rightly leaves the details of the process to the states.

Word of the week: intertragian notch (sometimes seen as intertragic notch) — the small gulf at the bottom of the human ear formed by the ear’s two notches, the tragus and the antitragus. I ran into the term in Tom Wolfe’s novel, “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”

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Tulsa World Editorial Pages Editor Wayne Greene spoke with retiring Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn on the mission and future of the society as Blackburn prepares to retire.


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Editorial Pages Editor

I'm the editorial pages editor of the Tulsa World and a political columnist. A fourth-generation Oklahoman, I previously served as the World’s city editor for 13 years and as a reporter at the state Capitol of four years. Phone: 918-581-8308

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