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Oklahoma

There are a wide variety of issue areas in which Oklahoma has opportunities to improve voter access and system integrity and continue on the progress made in 2020. These improvements will bring Oklahoma one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Oklahoma can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by expanding its permanent absentee voting list, on which voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election without having to re-apply. Expanding Oklahoma’s permanent absentee option by making the list truly permanent, rather than for just one year, would save the state significant expenses by cutting down on the requests it needs to process. On average, states save $1 for each ballot request application they no longer need to process.
Oklahoma can increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package by improving its current ballot tracking system. Advanced ballot tracking systems can proactively notify voters when their ballot takes a new step in the path from being sent to them to finally being counted (or rejected). If a ballot is rejected, these ballot tracking tools can be used as another method to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
Signature verification procedures ensure the security of the election process while reducing barriers to the ballto by eliminating the need for witness and notary requirements.
Signature verification processes fulfill the purposes of witness and notary requirements, while imposing a less heavier burden on voters. Signature verification, like witness and notary requirements, ensures that ballots are completed by the voters they were sent to; however, unlike signature verification, witness and notary requirements are harder to satisfy, especially for disabled voters and voters that live alone, among other groups. We recommend that Oklahoma eliminate its notary or witness requirement in favor of a secure, less burdensome, signature verification process.
In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected, said voter should have the ability to cure any correctable issues with their ballot quickly and simply to lower rejection rates. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Offering secure drop boxes as another method for voters to return ballots is a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system, and boxes are sometimes a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling places, vote centers, and drop boxes, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks shortly after election day is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner, as it is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half. We recommend that not only does a state allow the physical postmark on a ballot, but also to integrate into the USPS system for electronic postmarks to serve as validation that a ballot was mailed on time.
Simplifying the return process for a ballot is just as important as simplifying the request process. Prepaying postage on ballot return envelopes can increase return rates by ensuring that voters do not need to make an extra trip to the post office.
Processing mail ballots to get them ready for counting before election day will help Oklahoma get faster election results. Extending the state’s current preprocessing period from 5 to 7 days will give officials enough time to contact voters if correctable errors (like missing signatures) are found and ensure Oklahoma continues to deliver fast election results. Preliminary data also suggests that preprocessing helps avoid any blue or red shifts when there are differences in the partisan lean of mail vs. in person ballots, which could increase voter confidence in the results of elections.

Recent Legislation

As of June 15, 2021

In 2020 in response to the pandemic, the legislature passed SB 1779, which adjusted absentee timelines and counting procedures and gave counties the option to provide postage for ballots to better facilitate the expected surge in mail voting. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that requiring all absentee voters to get their signatures notarized placed an undue burden on voters during the pandemic. In response to the case, legislators passed S 210 to allow absentee voters to have the choice to either have a notarized signature or submit a photocopy of ID with their absentee ballot.

In 2021, the state added an additional day of in person absentee voting and shortened the amount of time to request an absentee ballot (HB 2663). It also passed a bill to allow the state to join ERIC to help maintain its voter rolls (SB 710). Lastly, the state also passed bills to increase voter privacy (HB 2939) and revise recount procedures (HB 2564).