Election board prepares for 2021, absentee ballot request reminders will not be sent

Michael D. Smith
An American flag flies at the Carter County Election Board office on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. The board traditionally sent reminders to absentee voters to request ballots for the following year, but a record number of absentee ballots requested in 2020 has prevented the reminders from going out for 2021.

Weeks after results in Oklahoma were certified in a contentious election, the Carter County Election Board quietly resumed their behind-the-scenes work this month, ahead of several local elections in early 2021. Carter County voters in Dickson and Wilson will be called back to the polls early next year, while qualifying for Ardmore municipal elections in April are set for early February.

Most aspects of their job remains similar to previous years for election board staff, but election board secretary Diane Hall said on Thursday that absentee ballot request reminders will not go out this year.

Because of a huge spike in the number of absentee ballots requested in Carter County in 2020 — driven heavily by the coronavirus pandemic — Hall said it would not have been possible to send reminders to all of the more than 2,500 who requested one in 2020. 

In years past, local election officials would send anywhere between 200 and 500 reminders as a courtesy.

“I can’t pick and choose who to send one to,” Hall said, adding that efforts to identify only those who have regularly requested ballots in previous years would have been too cumbersome.

Beginning in February, the filing period for the upcoming Ardmore municipal elections is between Feb. 1 and Feb. 3. Commission seats for the Southwest and Northeast, currently occupied by Martin Dyer and John Moore respectively, will be decided by voters in April.

Voters in Wilson will decide the fate of a $7.7 million bond issue on Feb. 6. According to a sample ballot, the funds are expected to be used for improvements to the Wilson Public School campus.

Multiple school boards in the county have seats opening up in 2021, but only one of the 11 seats across 10 districts have more than one challenger. On April 6, Dickson Public Schools Board member Jack Jones will face challenger Bobby Black. All other seats will be likely filled by the sole qualifying candidate.

Hall said it is uncommon for school boards to have multiple candidates file. She said the reasons can vary from lack of interest in the local positions, or simply be attributed to a community consensus on the single candidate.

“Every once in a while you’ll get a race, some even controversial,” she said.

Hall wants to remind voters that traditionally vote absentee will need to submit a new request to cover them for 2021. She said even if voters do not have any elections scheduled for this year, special elections can happen with little warning and an early request could make absentee voting in local elections a little smoother.

For absentee ballot requests, sample ballots and other information, Carter County voters can contact the Carter County Election Board at (580) 223-5290 or visit the state board of elections website at https://oklahoma.gov/elections.html.