OKLAHOMA CITY – It looks like voters who are absent in Oklahoma will need a notary.
Moving quickly to nullify the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling Monday, Republican lawmakers hope to push legislation through the House of Representatives on Wednesday that will restore notary requirements issued by the court while making temporary benefits for the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Senate Bill of 1779, which originally dealt with “voting,” was renovated by Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, and is expected to be heard on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.
Usually such quick action is not possible, but on Monday the DPR postponed its procedural rules due to the shortened legislative session of the epidemic.
Kannady said Wednesday night the bill was intended to make a clear notary would be needed for voting that was not present in the upcoming elections but to provide possible exceptions for the June 30 general election which would also include Question 802.
That exception will allow non-notary ballots if accompanied by a copy of the same identification that is required for direct voting. Exceptions will only be allowed if the country is in an emergency regarding COVID-19 45 days before the election.
An emergency such as this is currently in force.
Democrat House may oppose the move but it is not possible to prevent him from qualifying for the Senate.
Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, who tried unsuccessfully this year to raise from 20 to 50 the maximum number of ballots that can be authorized by one person, said Republican swift action reflected misplaced concerns about the consequences of making voter absenteeism easier.
“I do not neglect the importance of election integrity,” Blancett said. “Oklahoma has done an extraordinary job. … I think that fear is totally unfounded. At the same time I respect (concern).”
But Blancett said he did not believe election security was really the driving force behind the law.
“Increasing voter access can make elections more competitive,” he said.
Some observers and officials on both sides are concerned that the main problem on June 30 could be difficult. Many voters said they were worried about going to the polls because of the risk of COVID-19, while election officials said they might have trouble getting poll workers – many of them older and thus more vulnerable to viruses – for the same reason.
A coalition of voter advocacy groups, including the Oklahoma Women’s Voters’ League, sued for the state notary requirements to be issued. The court agreed that state law was not clear on this issue.
Kannady said he also agreed that the current law was unclear but believed the notary was needed to guard against abuse.
Experts tend to agree that ballots are easier to manipulate illegally than voting directly, but say large-scale fraud is rare in both cases.
SB 1779 also includes emergency provisions for nursing homes and other facilities that may be quarantined because of the epidemic.