General Election Voting

Voters cast their ballot in the general election, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at the Senior Citizens Center of Noble. Some voters in the line waited up to four hours to vote. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

Norman’s state senators are taking different approaches to election-centric legislation in the bills they’ve filed for the 2021 legislative session.

The bill filing period has come to an end as of 5 p.m. Thursday. This period saw Oklahoma state Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, lead the charge in filing election-related bills, filing three on the topic.

Boren said her bills look to make voting more accessible and to encourage larger voter turnout in Oklahoma, which has consistently had low voter turnout compared to other states.

Senate Bill 509, authored by Boren, seeks to extend the time period for early voting from three days to 21 days. Surrounding states like Texas already offer 21 days of early voting.

“The best window to have early voting opportunities is 21 days,” Boren said. “If you only have one weekend, that’s problematic, because it’s not long enough, but you don’t want it so long that people don’t take the opportunity.”

Boren’s other bill, Senate Bill 576, looks to allow individuals the opportunity to “cure” their mail-in ballot if it is rejected for any number of reasons.

In the Nov. 3 election, over 4,700 mail-in ballots were rejected statewide.

“In the event a voter’s application or affidavit is rejected for any reason, the secretary of the county election board shall immediately notify the voter in writing of the rejection and the reason for the rejection,” the bill reads. “A voter receiving notice shall be given the opportunity to cure the defective application or affidavit pursuant to rules and procedures promulgated by the Secretary of the State Election Board.”

Her final bill that covers elections, Senate Bill 579, would allow voters to permanently use a photo ID in place of a notarization when submitting a mail-in ballot.

“[This bill] is seeking to extend the accommodations that were provided for during [the 2020 election cycle] due to COVID-19,” Boren said. “This would allow voter ID to be used to affirm the identity, accuracy or authenticity of the ballot.”

Oklahoma state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, is taking a different approach to voter legislation. Standridge has filed a joint resolution to amend the Oklahoma Constitution; if passed, it would go to the public for a vote.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 seeks to amend the state constitution, which allows for voters to request a mail-in ballot without an excuse. Standridge’s joint resolution would make it to where voters must have a specified reason for requesting a mail-in ballot.

“The Legislature shall prescribe the time and manner at which a qualified elector may request and submit an absentee ballot and have the ballot counted in the precinct in which he or she is properly registered, if on the occurrence of any election, the elector will be absent from his or her residence or otherwise unable to vote at the proper polling place because of: An occupation or business of the elector that requires him or her to be elsewhere; Illness or physical disability of the elector; The observance of a religious holiday by the elector; or Election Day duties if the elector is a county employee,” the bill reads.

Standridge did not respond to The Transcript’s request for comment.

Oklahoma state election officials said there was no fraud in the 2020 General Election, during which mail-in ballots were used in record numbers in Oklahoma and when an excuse was not required to request a mail-in ballot.

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

Trending Video

Staff Writer

Reese Gorman covers elections, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic for The Norman Transcript. He started as an intern in May of 2020 and transitioned into his current position as a staff writer in August of 2020.