Senate approves early voting measure; sends back to House

Mike Seals - April 22, 2021 10:38 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday to allow voters more time to cast early ballots. Senate Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter, said House Bill 2663 is needed to improve voter participation by giving Oklahomans an additional day to vote by in-person absentee ballot.

“While more Oklahomans voted in the November 2020 presidential election than in 2016, our state still ranks last for voter turnout when considering the total voting-eligible population,” David said. “Currently, our state has the shortest in-person early voting period nationwide. Given people’s busy schedules and how far they may have to travel to get to their county election board, three days is a very short window for this important civic duty. Providing this additional time to vote early will hopefully entice more Oklahomans to participate in the process and let their voices be heard.”

Under HB 2663, a registered voter may apply for an in-person absentee ballot from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday immediately preceding any county election, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Saturday immediately preceding a general, primary, runoff primary or presidential preferential primary election. The bill would also allow such ballots to be cast from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding a general election.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, just over 55% of the state’s 2.85 million voting-eligible citizens participated in the November election, while more than 66% of eligible voters nationwide participated.

House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is the principal House author.

“We want qualified voters to have every opportunity to vote in an election no matter what emergency might be taking place,” Echols said. “We also, however, want certified election results on election day. Extending early voting helps us accomplish both.”

The Oklahoma Election Board reported that just over 1.56 million Oklahomans voted in the November general election, an increase of nearly 7.5% from 2016. Close to 69%, or more than two-thirds, of registered Oklahoma voters cast their ballots.

According to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), early voting periods in the U.S. range in length from four days to 45 days, with the average length being 19 days.

 

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