The full Senate has easily passed three of the proposals introduced by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, to modernize Oklahoma’s election system and increase rapidly declining voter participation.
“The three proposals received overwhelming votes of support, and as a result we are well on our way to modernizing our state’s election laws,” Holt said. “In particular, I believe the strong vote for a secure online registration system represents a landmark for election reform in this state.”
In 1992, over 70 percent of eligible Oklahomans participated in the presidential election, but by 2012, that percentage had plunged to only 52 percent, the third-worst in the nation. In 2014, less than 30 percent of eligible voters participated in the statewide general election. A third of eligible Oklahomans are not even registered. There were fewer registered voters in 2014 than there were in 1988, even though the state’s population has grown 22 percent.
The three pieces of legislation advancing to the House are:
Senate Bill 312 (passed 45-0) Consolidates all local candidate elections to one cycle in the spring or one cycle in the fall, minimizing voter fatigue. As an example, in Oklahoma City this year, school board and career tech board elections were held in February, but city council elections were held in March. The House author is Rep. Jon Echols.
Senate Bill 313 (passed 37-2) Authorizes the Oklahoma State Election Board to create a secure online system where citizens with a driver's license may submit a voter registration application. The proposed system is supported by the State Election Board Secretary and is more secure and has better fraud protections than the current paper system. Over half the states offer this modern accommodation. Over a third of eligible Oklahoma voters are not registered to vote. Younger voters especially are not used to a world where such tasks cannot be accomplished online. This legislation is co-authored by Senate Minority Leader Randy Bass, who led an interim study on the issue last year. The House author is Rep. Gary Banz.
Senate Bill 315 (passed 38-7) Allows voters to request to be placed permanently on the absentee voter list, rather than the current practice of requiring an unnecessary application each year. The House author is Rep. Elise Hall.