Oklahoma Lawmakers Move to Revive Notary Rule for Absentee Voting

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — Republican legislators in Oklahoma pushed Wednesday to vote on reinstating a requirement that absentee ballots must be notarized in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic — two days after the requirement was rejected by the state’s high court.

Several state lawmakers filed amendments to Senate Bill 210 after voicing concerns that the lack of a notary requirement would make absentee ballots vulnerable to voter fraud.

(AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)

Representative Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, proposed amending SB 210 to reinstate the notary requirement while also allowing a photocopy of a voter’s identification in a notary’s place if Republican Governor Kevin Stitt’s Covid-19 state of emergency is in effect 45 days before or after a scheduled election.

“The measure also establishes an alternative process for the delivery of absentee ballot applications to residents of long-term care facilities and modifies the criteria to qualify as ‘physically incapacitated’ for purposes of requesting an absentee ballot to include Covid-19-related health issues,” the amendment states.

Voter rights groups cheered the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s 6-3 majority ruling Monday that concluded the state’s previous absentee ballot notary requirement did not qualify as an exception to a 2002 state law that allows signed, sworn statements made under the penalty of perjury to suffice.

Chief Justice Noma Gurich wrote the state is “barred from issuing ballot forms, instructions, and materials suggesting notarization and/or a notarized affidavit form is the only means through with the requisite affidavit for absentee voting may be accomplished.”

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma and voters Angela Patrick and Peggy Winton directly requested extraordinary relief from the high court on April 23, accusing the state’s election board of incorrectly instructing voters that a sworn affidavit is required.

The state said during oral arguments on April 29 that it makes no sense to not require absentee voters to show identification considering state law requires in-person voters to show identification at the polls.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the proposed SB 210 amendment as a “blatant attempt to roll back” the court’s ruling to make the voting process “more difficult at every stage” and takes power away from Oklahoma voters. It said voters are being asked in the current pandemic “to choose between the recommendations of public health experts and exercising their right to vote.”

The Oklahoma Policy Institute also opposes the legislation, arguing it “opens up Oklahoma to additional potential lawsuits challenging the notarization requirement” the high court rejected.

“Even voter fraud work by the conservative Heritage Center lists only two instances of Oklahoma absentee ballot fraud in its database that stretches back almost three decades,” the group said in a statement.

Oklahoma’s primary election is on June 30. Voters have until June 5 to register and until June 25 to request an absentee ballot. The ballot is headlined by State Questions 802, which asks voters whether to expand Medicaid.

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