In-person absentee voting available

Registered voters in Cleveland County who want to vote by mail absentee in the July 29 State and County Primary Election have missed the application deadline, county Election Board Secretary Paula G. Roberts said.

"They aren't out of luck, however," Roberts said.

Voters who want to cast absentee ballots can still do so by going to the Cleveland County Election Board office, 122 S. Peters Ave., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 28. A two-member, bipartisan Absentee Voting Board will be on duty each day to assist in-person absentee voters.

"In-person absentee voters fill out an application form when they arrive at the office. They are not required to state a reason for voting in-person absentee," Roberts said. "They are required to swear that they have not voted a regular mail absentee ballot and that they will not vote at their polling places on election day."

Roberts said the Absentee Voting Board verifies voters' registration information, then issues the voters' ballots. The voters mark the ballots in a voting booth, then put them in the voting device. "It is very much like voting at a precinct polling place," said Roberts.

For more information, visit the Election Board office or call 366-0210.



Collins announces re-election bid

Incumbent Democrat Wallace Collins announced his intention to seek another term in the State House of Representatives for District 45.

The district covers all of east Norman, Lake Thunderbird, and includes Little Axe.

"There are many reasons for me to want to continue serving the district and state," Collins said, "such as the need to protect Oklahoma's water from a sale to Texas. Water is a very precious commodity, and we will need it for our own continued growth and development."

Other issues Collins is passionate about include his call for a return of passenger rail service to Oklahoma and a development of a light rail system to cover central Oklahoma.

"A light rail system similar to the old Interurban we used to enjoy would allow people to commute, or travel around central Oklahoma without having to use a car or our congested highways," said the lifelong Norman resident. An electric trolley would be safe, clean, efficient, protect the environment, and help relieve the stress and strain on the budget of working people, as well as enable people with disabilities to get about.

Additional issues for Collins are pay raises for state employees, and finding a way to annualize their pay, so they don't have to come to the Capitol to beg for a raise.

Veterans are another area that is important to Collins, who is awaiting the results of an inquiry into the situation at the Norman Veterans Center. Calling for full funding of veterans needs, Collins promised to continue to be a voice for veterans and their families.

"Education is always at the top of the list," remarked the Norman representative, "with the needs of OU, public education, and the career tech system, we aren't funding education as we should." He cites the recent increase in student tuition at OU as a sign that the state is not putting enough money into higher ed, requiring the shortfall to be made up with the hike in tuition rates.

Additionally, he says he will continue to try to expand the OHLAP coverage and raise the cap on family incomes to make more high school graduates eligible for the program. "Everyone talks about the need for more college graduates, but when we had a chance to do something about that problem, we refused," Collins stated, referring to when the legislature failed to act on one of his bills to expand the program. Collins believes that each tuition hike knocks another group of students out of a chance to attend college because of costs.

Transportation issues are very high on the priority list for Collins, who has been at the forefront of the fight to save the OKC Union Station and its rail bed. He believes that the Union Station and yard are the key to a return of passenger rail to Oklahoma. "The Union Station is the hub of rail transportation in our state, and if we lose that I don't think we will ever see a return of passenger rail." That is one reason Collins filed a bill last year, and will pursue it again next session, to remove railroads from the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and create a new agency, "The Oklahoma Railway Commission". "There is precedent to do this, he added, as the same thing was done years back, when we removed airports from the transportation department."

Collins said that there are a multitude of issues that need to be addressed by the state, which means that his experience and knowledge are very important, especially now when the state is making such major decisions about our future.

Lifelong residents of Norman, Collins and his wife Pat soon will have been married for 48 years, and have six sons, all of whom attended Norman Public Schools. They also have six grandchildren. He is a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, as well as the Norman Kiwanis Club, the Norman Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the advisory board of RSVP, a local volunteer agency. Collins is a member of the following House Committees: Business and Labor; Economic Development; and the Veterans Committee, and serves as Assistant Minority Floor Leader. He can be reached at the Capitol at 557-7386 or at home at 329-2830.

-- Transcript Staff

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