By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A new state law that took effect Nov. 1 changes the dates and times voters have come to expect for early voting in Oklahoma, according to Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams.
Early voting begins a day earlier this year — on Thursday — and continues on Friday. Early voting will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Cleveland County Election Board office, 641 E. Robinson St. in Norman. Persons with disabilities who need special assistance can drive up to the south end of the building and push a button on a pole to request help.
“There will be some orange cones directing people into the drive-through lanes,” Williams said. “It’s the same thing we offered in the general elections. We serviced over 500 votes then.”
Persons must have proof of disability saying they need assistance and can’t come inside to use the special service, Williams said. The special service is only available during the early voting hours Thursday and Friday.
All early voting on Monday is discontinued as a result of Senate Bill 869, which was signed into law in May.
Election board offices will be closed on Monday for Veterans Day.
Regular voting will commence at 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 12.
Norman residents will consider an increase in the sewer service rates. Williams said 51 precincts in Cleveland County are affected by special elections Nov. 12. In addition to Norman, the city of Lexington and Mustang Public Schools also have special elections on that date.
· Norman ballot initiative — Norman voters will be asked to approve a wastewater rate increase to help pay for $63 million in upgrades at the city’s southside sewer plant.
If the proposed rate increase is approved, the average water user’s bill will go up about $3.74 a month. Average commercial rates will go up by $7.39 per month. Sewer rates have not risen since 1996.
Norman is the only Oklahoma city that must have utility rate increases approved by a vote of the people.
If the city does not upgrade to meet Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality standards, Norman could face state fines of $10,000 per day. The city will borrow about $32 million for 15 years, according to the plan developed by the city.
The proposition includes an increase to the base rate and an increase to the commodity or use rate. Even if voters approve the rate increase, Norman’s wastewater cost will remain below average compared to other Oklahoma municipalities.
The city’s current base rate is $3.90 per month. Voters will be asked to approve a $1.10 per month increase, raising the base rate from $3.90 to $5 monthly.
The city’s current commodity rate is $1.60 per 1,000 gallons of treated wastewater. Voters will be asked to increase the commodity rate by $1.10 per 1,000 gallons used. That will bring the commodity rate to $2.70 per 1,000 gallons used.
· Lexington ballot initiative — Lexington voters will consider an additional half percent sales tax to boost the city’s general fund. The current sales tax rate is 3.5 percent. If approved, the increase would bring the sales tax to 4 percent.
Tax at surrounding cities are already at 4 percent, Lexington City Manager Charlie McCown said.
· Mustang Public Schools — Mustang voters will consider two school bond propositions.
If approved, Proposition 1 will allow the district to build a new JROTC Center for $1.4 million, an indoor baseball facility for $1.325 million and a new barn for FFA. Proposition 2 would provide buses, special need buses and vans.
Williams said the Nov. 12 elections will be Cleveland County’s first election using the new statewide, in-person voting dates and times.
Proof of identity is required for both early voting and regular precinct voting. A voter registration card or a photo ID such as a driver’s license are the most commonly used, but a photo ID issued by the U.S. government, the state or a federally recognized tribal government can be used.
For more information, call the Cleveland County Election Board at 366-0210.