The Oklahoma Eagle Newswire
On Wednesday, state lawmakers transferred language reinstating the ballot notarization requirement into three separate bills in an effort to advance it as quickly as possible.
House Floor proceedings were briefly delayed in order for members to determine which amendment to which bill they were meant to be considering. The language ultimately settled in SB 210 less than an hour before the bill was heard. Along with all other 23 Oklahoma House Democrats, State Rep. Regina Goodwin, voted No on the highly controversial Senate Bill 210 regarding absentee ballot voting and notarization. The bill passed 24-76 Wednesday afternoon along mostly party lines.
SB 210 was then added to the floor agenda for the Senate late Wednesday night. While it would have been assigned to committee under normal circumstances, the rules set by lawmakers in response to the pandemic meant it went straight to the Senate Floor, where it passed 38-9. The super majority Republican led legislature voted for SB210 and Gov. Stitt signed the bill into law on the same day on Thursday. The law now adds a new requirement of a voter to attach a photocopy of ID in the absentee ballot vote package.
State Rep. Goodwin stated, “The Oklahoma Supreme Court rightly judged and upheld an Oklahoma Statute established in 2002 which states that absentee ballot voting may legally happen with notarization or with a signed statement under penalty of perjury. Notarization is equated with a signed statement – Title12 O.S.426 reads in part – with like force and effect by the unsworn statement in writing of the person made and signed under penalty of perjury…”
“After a Supreme Court decision and during a deadly pandemic, it is a despicable act of the super majority Republican leadership to force new obstacles in the way of our basic right to vote with an absentee ballot,” stated Rep. Goodwin.
“On Thursday, the Oklahoma Senate advanced SB 210, which will cement barriers to voting by mail, to Gov. Stitt’s desk. Passed in the middle of a pandemic, this bill would roll back a state Supreme Court decision from just days ago and continues the shameful shell game that began yesterday in the House.
In the midst of a global health crisis, our lawmakers should be looking for opportunities to strengthen Oklahoma’s election integrity, ensuring not only that our elections are secure but also that Oklahomans may exercise their right to vote freely and without fear. SB 210 would reinstate Oklahoma’s absentee ballot notarization requirement, or require mail-in ballots to be accompanied by a photocopy of a voter’s ID, both measures employed by just two other states.
An advocate for SB 210 said during Floor debate that Oklahoma had other options besides those in the bill to ensure our elections are secure. Nonetheless, our lawmakers have chosen to propel a measure that only reinstates the inequities the state Supreme Court removed just days ago, and they have taken advantage of the flexibility they afforded themselves to pass crucial legislation in the middle of a public health emergency in order to do so,” says OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose:
Contrary to its own law, Oklahoma is one of only three states mandating the use of a notary to verify absentee ballot votes. Now a copy of voter ID is a requirement, if a person does not use a notary for absentee voting.
“People in general, and particularly seniors and black people, at greater risk with COVID-19, should not have to risk their health and lives, to go stand in line to vote. Black folks already died for the right to vote. Many want a simple, safe way to vote, that is why the League of Women Voters won their lawsuit,” says Rep. Goodwin
“Many people do not have a printer where they live to photocopy their ID. If their are problems with name changes, close variations of names, clerical misspells, the provisional ballots are another problem that don’t get counted and maybe only if a race is close,” says Rep. Goodwin.
“When a Republican representative without any facts says fraud is happening simply because 400 people requested an absentee ballot, this is about prejudging and blocking the right to vote. We have seen people in another state, stand in line to vote and become sick with COVID-19. Many people, in the midst of the deadliest pandemic we have seen in our lifetime, seek absentee ballots to vote and are being smart and safe. Our votes should not be suppressed or stopped,“ stated Rep. Goodwin.
According to The Oklahoma State Dept. of Health to date 4,424 people have contracted the COVID-19 virus in Oklahoma, 266 people have died and there were 124 new cases and 6 new deaths as of May 7.