April 13, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA
Election Season Starts with Candidate Filing
OICA Encourages Changes to Make Voting Easier Amid COVID-19
While the pandemic has the entire world adjusting to a “new normal” for the time being, some things continue to function without hesitation. One of those was the filing period for elective offices in Oklahoma which happened last week.
In total, 300 candidates submitted their paperwork, less than half the 791 that filed in 2018. Congratulations to those who won office with no opposition! Of those, eight senators and 38 house members were automatically re-elected; special congratulations to Rep.-elect Stephen Bashore for being the only newcomer elected without opposition. He will replace Rep. Ben Loring, an outstanding lawmaker and OICA advocate.
In other areas of electoral advocacy, OICA is encouraging policymakers to consider safe alternatives for voting. Any Oklahoma registered voter may vote by notarized absentee ballot. It is not necessary to give a reason for voting absentee; it is your right. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is always 5 p.m. on Wednesday preceding the election.
One safety option is waiving the requirement that absentee ballots have a notarized signature, at least for this election cycle, and ensuring security by increasing the staff levels at county election boards to verify signatures. Another possibility would be to allow voters to do a drive-by drop-off of absentee ballots at local election boards during early voting on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prior to the election and signing a verification form on-site while showing proper identification.
We hope, due to the necessity of social distancing, lawmakers will consider the fact that most other states allow voting by mail and use a process of signature verification through the election offices instead of notarization; this was the process President Trump himself used recently when he cast his absentee ballot in his new home state of Florida.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oklahoma is one of only 11 states that require a mailed absentee ballot be notarized, and three of those exempt notarizations for military or overseas ballots. Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. If a discrepancy is found with the signature, voters are called by the county election board to “cure” or resolve the question or to sign an affidavit by Election Day.
You can apply for an absentee ballot online at https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Absentee_Voting/index.html or you may write a letter to your county election board to apply for absentee ballots. The letter must contain the following information: your name, your birth date, the address at which you are registered to vote, the election(s) for which you are requesting ballot(s), the address where ballot(s) should be mailed, and your signature.
You can find the full procedures for absentee ballots, what to do if you are too sick to vote in-person on election day, lists of candidates, and a wealth of information on elections at the Oklahoma State Election Board website at https://www.ok.gov/elections/index.html.
We know voting options could present a tough transition and require additional funds, but to ensure the health of Oklahoma voters and continue with our guaranteed right to select leaders, safer choices for voters must be considered.
The child statistic of the week is sponsored by Variety Care – In Fiscal Year 18, Oklahoma public school children were served a total of 80,221,192 free and reduced meals through organized programs.