In an interesting reversal compared to other Republican-dominated states, the so deep-red state of Oklahoma is loosening its voting practices. Governor Kevin Stitt (R) signed legislation adding another day for early in-person voting. The law also adds another hour to Saturday’s early voting and makes changes to mail-in ballots that would further guarantee they arrive on time for the count. Oklahoma is not concerned about the state going blue, and this is why.
Republican state Representative and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R) “was mortified” on Election Day in 2020. He saw people waiting in line to vote in his district for three and one-half hours. His district includes Oklahoma City’s urban core and reaches into rural land.
He said that a country like ours “with real, free and fair elections,” should not force people to wait such long lines just to exercise their right to vote, the Associated Press (AP) News wrote:
‘We should all be humiliated that we had that.’
GOP strategist and former chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party Chad Alexander said he thinks part of the reason the measure passed so easily was that the state had one extra day of early voting. More time does not change the Republican’s lead in their deep red state:
‘We haven’t had a Democrat carry a single county in a presidential race in five election cycles. Every statewide elected official is a Republican, and they were elected in an off-year for Republicans. Oklahoma is very red, and I don’t think this change disproportionately affects either party.’
Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said the extra times makes voting more convenient, but he doubts it would change the results:
‘Generally, I think if you look around the country at states with higher turnout, I personally think it has a lot less to do with things like the number of early voting days that states have available and has a lot more to do with the amount of money political parties and candidates are spending on get-out-the-vote programs.’
Republican pollster and strategist Pat McFerron noted that an extra day would also lessen criticism over some of Oklahoma’s current restrictive voting laws. Right now, voters are required to have voter IDs and notarized mail-in ballots:
‘I would actually say the Republican partisans I’ve spoken to are not enamored with this move. Especially when you consider that generally our locations that are open early tend to really benefit Democratic candidates. Honestly, I don’t think this is a blatantly pro-Republican type of move at alL.’
Democratic House Minority Leader Representative Emily Virgin. of Norman, a college town, thinks increasing the voting days is good but much more “needs to be done,” according to The Texarkana Gazette:
‘It’s a step in the right direction, but it is a very small step. It’s fairly hard to vote in Oklahoma, as compared to other states. We need to be doing a whole lot more in terms of increasing voter turnout.’
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