The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma has worked for the last 100 years to educate voters, increase participation in our democracy and build integrity and trust in our elections. This election year there are unusual challenges that we are trying to address. We, and all Oklahoma citizens interested in good government, need Gov. Kevin Stitt’s help.
We asked him last week to issue immediately an executive order that specifically addresses absentee voting for the Nov. 3 election. Absentee voters in the June primary and the upcoming August runoff were given the option of including a copy of approved identification as an alternative to the usual requirement of having ballot affidavits notarized. Gov. Stitt needs to act early and decisively to set ground rules for absentee voting for the general election. That includes extending the ID copy option.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the state league expects a record number of voters to request absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 general election. As a matter of public safety, those voters should have the option of including a copy of their ID. This allows them to remain sheltered and safe — and it is just plain easier than forcing them to locate a notary public to stamp their ballot affidavit.
Extending the emergency order now would provide consistency and stability to the absentee voting process. Even in normal times, the absentee voting process requires several steps. These procedures will be unfamiliar to thousands of voters. Voters have said they lack confidence that they can figure out how to complete all the steps to avoid rejection of their ballots.
Confusion and uncertainty also lead to loss of confidence in election results. They increase the risk that many legitimate votes will not be counted. They invite a fiasco of challenges and delayed results, not only in the federal and state elections but also the votes on State Questions 805 and 814.
In Oklahoma’s June primaries, county election officials rejected nearly 3,000 absentee ballots. The league needs the governor’s order so that we may start our voter education efforts immediately. To do that — and to avoid problems of the magnitude some states have faced — he must extend the emergency declaration now.
We see no indication that adverse conditions created by the COVID-19 crisis will change significantly before Nov. 3, particularly as they affect the ability of citizens — especially those most vulnerable to the virus — to vote safely.
When you mail your absentee ballot be sure to use adequate postage. After you have mailed your ballot, you can track if it has been received and ultimately recorded through the Oklahoma Election Board’s online voter portal.
Jan Largent is president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma.
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