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Oklahoma lawmakers push forward a ban on ranked-choice voting

Oklahoma State Board of Elections Secretary Paul Ziriax answers questions from Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, about ranked-choice voting, Feb. 12, during a House Elections and Ethics Committee meeting at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Ziriax supports the state-wide ban on ranked-choice voting proposed by Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City.
Lionel Ramos
/
KOSU
Oklahoma State Board of Elections Secretary Paul Ziriax answers questions from Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, about ranked-choice voting, Feb. 12, during a House Elections and Ethics Committee meeting at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Ziriax supports the state-wide ban on ranked-choice voting proposed by Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City.

Some Oklahoma lawmakers think a switch to ranked-choice voting is too costly, others say it will save the state money in the long term and help bring balanced elections.

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering the prohibition of ranked-choice voting in state elections.

Rep. Eric Roberts, R- Oklahoma City, introduced House Bill 3156 to the House Elections and Ethics Committee, Monday.

The measure would ban voters listing candidates for public office in order of preference on their ballots, and election boards from certifying race results determined that way.

The practice is known as ranked-choice voting.

“Ranked-choice voting, basically would supplant our current system to put in a prorated, preferential voting method,” Roberts said.

He said changing the way the state conducts elections would fix an unbroken system.

“It has been said that Oklahoma’s election laws are some of the best in the nation,” Roberts said. “Why would we scrap them for another system that relies on computer algorithms to choose the winner?”

Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, was a vocal proponent of ranked-choice voting at the committee meeting. He said the voting method can save the state money, reduce partisanship in elections and give third-party candidates a fighting chance.

He said voters he’s talked to support preference-based voting.

“They get excited because they start to see something beyond our two party system,” Dollens said. “It’ll save the state money because there will be no runoff elections, and it will reduce negative campaigning.”

Dollens said state-level restrictions on how elections are conducted are a heavy-handed approach to limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to make their own decisions.

“I think the underlying issue here is that you have a heavy-handed state government that is dictating to local municipalities on what they can and cannot do when it comes to their local elections,” he said.

Roberts said switching to a ranked-choice system would cost the state too much time and money. He says voting machines in Oklahoma are unable to count ranked ballots. They would need to be replaced or election results could see long delays.

Paul Ziriax, the Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary, testified during the committee meeting and backed up Roberts’ concerns. Ziriax said the voting machines the state uses now cannot read ranked-choice ballots and aren’t due to be upgraded for another four to eight years.

Dollens pointed out the last time voting machines were updated in Oklahoma was in 2012.

The measure was approved in committee with a 5-2 vote and can now be heard by the full House.


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Lionel Ramos covers state government at KOSU. He joined the station in January 2024.
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