Early Voting Expanded by a Day

Oklahoma state Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, speaks on the House floor Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma is poised to add an extra day of in-person early voting ahead of general elections every two years.

Even with the expansion, Oklahoma lags substantially behind other states that provide for early voting.

After some Oklahomans waited hours to cast early ballots during  last year’s presidential election, a new state law will add a fourth day of early voting in the state’s general elections for governor and president.

Interestingly, the change comes as Republicans in Georgia, Texas, Arizona and Florida have sought to implement voting rules designed to limit voting rights.

Republicans—making false claims of widespread voter fraud—appear to be anxious to set the stage to steal elections in 2022 and 2024.

Presumably, they are willing to go to almost any length to regain control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“I bet we’ll be the only Republican state that expanded voting rights,” State House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (Rep., Oklahoma City) said.

Bucking the trend in red states, Kentucky’s Democratic governor earlier this year signed bipartisan legislation to expand voter access that passed the state’s Republican-lcontrolled Legislature.

State Rep. Echols garnered bipartisan support for State House Bill 2663 that Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law in May.

He said he couldn’t comment on election law changes in other states, but praised the integrity of Oklahoma’s election system and said residents can feel secure in state elections and the increased ballot access.

“Oklahoma elections are safe and secure,” the  state House majority leader commented.   “I’ve won an election and lost an election and they were fair.”

State HB 2663 allows for early voting, also known as absentee in-person, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Wednesday before general elections held in even-numbered years. 

The state already offers early voting on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prior to an election.

The bill also adds an hour of early voting on Saturdays before all federal and state elections, which includes primary and runoff elections.

“We had, in my district, three and a half hour lines on Election Day to vote in the presidential election,” State Rep. Echols said.   “In a developing country, we should all be humiliated that we have that.”

State early voting period is still shorter than the national average.

Even with the change, Oklahoma will lags behind the average timeframe for early voting,  which is 19 days, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State HB 2663 also alters the timeframe for Oklahomans to request absentee ballots following a warning from the U.S. Postal Service that Oklahoma’s mail-in ballot deadline may not allow enough time for delivery to county election boards.

Following a recommendation from the the postal service. Oklahoma’s new absentee ballot request deadline will be 15 days prior to an election.   The state’s current request deadline is seven days prior to an election.

With 167,185 votes cast, Oklahomans set a record for in-person early voting during the 2020 general election.

HB 2663 takes effect Jan. 1.

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