R’s up, D’s down: Oklahoma election deadlines loom as absentee ballot requests increase

Robby Short
Sample ballot for the Nov. 3 election.
Sample ballot for the November 3 election.

Voters will still have to wait until November to find out who will win the 2020 presidential election, but they won’t have to wait that long to cast their vote.

The deadline to register to vote or to update voter registration information is October 9. The deadline applies to potential first-time voters as well as long-time voters that have sat out a few previous elections or had a change of address.

Requested absentee ballots began to be mailed out this week at a rate nearly doubling that of 2016.

“It’s risen, we’ve had a good number of registrations, but the absentees are off the chart,” Carter County Election Board Secretary Diane Hall said. “In 2016 we sent out 800 and got 600 back. So far, this year, we have sent out 1,587, and we still have weeks. That deadline isn’t until the 27th of October. And we have to have it in by November 2.”

Hall said some completed ballots have already been returned in person. To submit absentee ballots, voters must sign an affidavit that accompanies the ballot and must include either a photo ID or a document providing signed witnesses or have the affidavit notarized. The affidavit must be returned separately in the provided envelope.

Hall said the sealed ballots are placed into a metal lock box that will not be opened until November 2.

Hall said anyone attempting to vote twice via absentee voting and in-person voting will be referred to the district attorney’s office for an investigation, adding that most situations are due to elderly voters submitting an absentee ballot then simply forgetting they voted before heading to the polls on election day.

“There are three envelopes per absentee ballot, so not only do we need to confirm that they completed the affidavit correctly but we have to see if it was witnessed, notarized or if it has a copy of the photo ID,” Hall said. 

Absentee ballots can be mailed in or returned directly to the election board.

Hall said changes to the absentee voting policies may be confusing for some and encouraged anyone having difficulties with the process to call the election board at 580-223-6570.

Hall said that despite no local races on the November ballot, the number of statewide races, judges and state questions means voters will see a larger ballot than usual.

Early in-person will begin on Thursday, Oct. 29 and will continue through Saturday, Oct. 31. Early in-person voting is only available at the Carter County Election board. Hall said two polling locations have been moved for the November 2 election. The poll previously located at Southern Tech will now be located at the Springdale Community Center and the poll previously located at the Fox Baptist Church will now be located in Graham. Both relocations were due to the ongoing pandemic.

Masks will not be required to vote in-person but are recommended. Other safety precautions will be in place as well. 

Hall said new voter registrations continue to increase for Carter County, with Friday’s mid-day total increasing to 30,787 combined Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Independent voters, an increase of 16 from just two days prior. As of Friday, the county had 14,250 registered Republican voters, 10,785 registered Democrats, 156 registered Libertarians and 5,596 voters registered as Independent. Registered Democrats declined over the two-day period with more than a dozen switching parties during the span. 

According to Hall, registered Republican voters outnumber registered Democrats in the state 1,100,032 to 739,466 with another 13,441 voters registered as Libertarians and 353,269 registered as Independents, though 249,585 registered voters from all parties are considered inactive.

President Donald Trump won Oklahoma’s 2016 presidential election with 949,136 votes compared to Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton’s 420,375 and Libertarian challenger Gary Johnson’s 83,481 votes.