Federal Court Upholds Oklahoma Election Laws

Mike Seals - September 17, 2020 11:40 pm

Federal Judge Says Laws are “Reasonable, Nondiscriminatory, and Legitimate”

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today commended a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John Dowdell for siding with the state in a lawsuit brought by two Democratic Party groups challenging the state’s voting laws.

The lawsuit was filed by the Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It complained about several absentee voting procedures, claiming they severely burden Oklahomans’ voting rights during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

“Judge Dowdell got it right, and I applaud his objective ruling,” Attorney General Hunter said. “The procedures put in place by the legislature this year, and extended by the governor’s recent executive order, make it perfectly safe for Oklahomans to cast their ballot for the November election. Not to mention, hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans have already voted in both the primary and run-off elections earlier this year in-person and by absentee ballot. Judge Dowdell rightly concluded that the demands by these political groups would have caused confusion, delay, electoral disruption and increased risks of voter fraud. I appreciate the great work by the team in my office that defended these laws.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to make voting during the pandemic easier and safer to vote, including giving voters the ability to include a photocopy of their ID with their mail-in ballot that would be used for in-person voting in lieu of the other two verification options.

Legislation also authorized funds for a projected increase in absentee voting, allowing more assistance to those in nursing homes in casting their absentee ballots, but also prohibited “ballot harvesting” practices. As Judge Dowdell stated, Oklahoma’s recent changes to its voting laws “were enacted on a non-discriminatory, bipartisan basis.”

In August, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order extending these provisions past the November election.

Judge Dowdell wrote that the court has serious concerns that the plaintiffs’ requested changes to Oklahoma’s voting laws, saying they would “require numerous judicial modifications of Oklahoma legislation, which the Court is disinclined to do because of the disruption to the State’s overall electoral process.”

Judge Dowdell also concluded that the Democratic Party groups’ requests would leave Oklahoma “without any voter identification requirement” meaning that “the risk of potential voter fraud using absentee ballots undoubtedly increases.” The Judge wrote that “the state’s interests, as well as the identification laws themselves, are reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and legitimate”

Oklahomans can find more information on voting during the pandemic at the Election Board’s website, which features a list of places across the state where voters can receive free notarization and ID photocopying services, including drive-through services.

To read Judge Dowdell’s full opinion, click here.

 

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