OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, today secured passage of Senate Bill 210 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Kannady authored an amendment to the bill, which will protect election integrity through the absentee ballot process including during the period of pandemic. The measure passed 74-26.
“Oklahomans have said they want elections secure and free from fraud,” Kannady said. “This legislation provides election integrity and protects public safety and public health during this time when people are still concerned about the spread of COVID-19.”
Kannady, a Marine and an active member of the Oklahoma National Guard, said he and his fellow service members have been willing to shed blood to secure the right for United States citizens to vote. He likens voter fraud to the issue of stolen valor. He cited recent examples of unemployment fraud as proof this measure is needed.
He points out that under this measure, voters still can safely cast absentee ballots in the upcoming June 30 election without having to go to the polls or use a notary. To vote using an absentee ballot on June 30, they simply would need to make a copy of their identification and put it in an absentee ballot envelope, no notary needed. This should be easy for every voter, Kannady said. Showing identification to vote is standard practice at the polls. There are additional provisions for residents of nursing homes, veteran’s centers and other long-term care facilities.
After the June 30 election, voters would need to have absentee ballots notarized, a practice that has been in Oklahoma statute for 18 years without issue.
Kannady said the absentee ballot notary requirement keeps elections secure and without fraud. A recent Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling did not say absentee ballots can’t be notarized; the court merely ruled that absentee ballot statute relied on the wrong section of law to require notarization. The court examined the issue after a group of citizens identified a concern during the pandemic. The court found a technical issue in the statute.
Kannady said he’s glad the citizen group filed the lawsuit, because the court’s guidance will make the statute on the issue stronger.
“We used the court’s guidance to draft a workable solution that addressed the concerns of all Oklahomans,” Kannady said. “This is a great example of how the checks and balances process in government works to the benefit of all citizens.”
Kannady said this bill specified voting procedures in pandemics so the state can be prepared for the June election and if the pandemic occurs again. If a public health emergency is declared within 45 days of an election, which is expected to be the case for the June 30 election, the law allows for three tiers of absentee voting. Healthy people can vote with the required absentee ballot documentation. Nursing facility and veterans’ center resident can vote absentee under existing Election Board procedures for those facilities that would be enhanced by allowing a facility official to be deputized by an election official to enter the facility to collect required documentation. People incapacitated by COVID-19 who cannot leave their home or facility can be given absentee ballots to complete using the required documentation.