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Avoiding The Next Voter Purge: Oklahomans Face Deadline To Confirm Address

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Election Board is waiting for more than 134,000 voters to confirm their address by this Saturday.

If these voters don’t respond to a mailer sent this spring, they’ll risk being labeled as "inactive"—starting the process of being purged from the voter rolls.

Oklahoma and a handful of other states have so-called use-it-or-lose-it laws. These require the Election Board to send out prepaid mailers confirming the address of anyone who has not voted or updated their registration in the last four years. 

If the voters don’t respond to the mailer, update their voting registration, or cast a ballot for four more years they’ll be purged from the rolls. In April, more than 88,000 voters of Oklahoma’s 2.2 million registered voters were removed for inactivity.

An Oklahoma Watch review of voters purged in 2017 shows that Democrats were disproportionately affected. Of the 167,011 deleted due to inactivity, 46 percent were Democrats though they only made up about 39 percent of registered voters that year. 

Nicole McAfee, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union Oklahoma, said she hears from voters every election that have gone to the polls only to find out they’ve been removed.

“If you get to the polls and find that your registration isn't up to date, there’s nothing you can do about it in that moment,” she said.

McAfee says that unlike in many other states, Oklahoma does not have same day registration that would allow voters to register at the polls. 

Paul Ziriax, chief state election official, says that voter roll maintenance is required by federal law.

“Maintaining clean voter rolls is integral to the process of fair elections, I think Oklahoma has a very fair process in place,” says Ziriax.

In 2018, a similar program in Ohio was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a narrow 5-4 decision.

To confirm your voter registration, visit ok.gov/elections.


Lenora LaVictoire was a KOSU reporter and host from May to August 2019, following a five-month internship with StateImpact Oklahoma.
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