Early voting begins this week

Michael Smith
Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service vehicles wait to respond to medical emergencies on Friday. Voters within five Carter County school districts will soon decide the fate of a proposed 522 ambulance district and a 3-mil ad valorem tax.

The decision to approve or reject a new ambulance district and associated property tax increase falls on voters beginning this week. Voters in five Carter County school districts have through Wednesday to request an absentee ballot before the Jan. 14 special election.

Carter County Board of Elections secretary Diane Hall said registered voters across 21 precincts will decide the fate of the proposition. If approved, it would create a 522 ambulance district to manage the revenue from a new 3-mil ad-valorem tax imposed on property owners within the Ardmore, Dickson, Lone Grove, Plainview, and Springer school districts.

If the proposal is rejected, the current ambulance service would be severely stressed within two years, according to Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service executive director Bob Hargis. “With probably little to no reserves,” he said at a public forum last month.

If the measure fails and SOAS folds, the Carter County Commission would then be responsible for providing ambulance service in the county.

The ballot measure was approved by the commission in November and is being promoted by the Citizen Advisers for Regional EMS, a group of area residents and employees of Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service. The group recently held a series of town halls to answer questions from the public.

Registered voters in the five school districts can cast ballots on Jan. 14. According to Hall, early voting can be done at the Carter County Board of Elections between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Registered voters can also request an absentee ballot by visiting the Carter County Board of Elections office by the end of business on Wednesday, or by completing an online application at ok.gov/elections.

Voters casting ballots in person will require a valid photo ID or Oklahoma voter identification card.