This election season has already been different than any we've ever seen – especially in terms of the number of Americans who are turning to mailing in their ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this voting guide, we will talk about the deadlines Oklahoma voters need to know, what’s on the ballot, the safety guidelines for voting in-person during the pandemic and more. It’s also important to note that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt extended the COVID-19 State of Emergency to include new absentee voting options that are valid through the November 3rd election.
This post was updated on September 25. KOSU is continuing to update this voter guide for the 2020 election season. Bookmark this page for the latest updates.
Below are answers to some questions that can serve as a voter's guide for the general elections:
What should I do if I missed the deadline to turn in my absentee ballot?
The deadline to hand-deliver your standard absentee ballot to the county election board was on November 2nd at the close of business. If you did not turn in your absentee ballot by mail or hand-delivery - you can still vote in-person at your polling place by singing an affidavit that you did not vote absentee. When you head to the polls on November 3rd make sure to prepare for heavy turnout. You will also need a valid form of ID. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 3rd. If you are still in line past 7 p.m. you will be allowed to vote.
When is the deadline to register to vote for the November 3rd General Election?
The deadline to register to vote for the first time or to update your voting information for the general election was on October 9th. You can use the official OK Voter Portal through the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website where you can fill out an application, print it, sign it and mail it. You will then get a tracking number to use to call your county election board to track the status of the application.
You can find a wide variety of voter services on the election boards website at elections.ok.gov.
When is the deadline to request an absentee ballot?
The deadline to request an absentee ballot was on October 27th at 5 p.m. You can request an absentee ballot online through the OK Voter Portal. Requests can also be hand-delivered, faxed, emailed or mailed to your county election board.
When should I mail my ballot?
In 2020, the USPS recommends mailing your completed ballot at least one week prior to the due date set by the election officials, which would be the week of October 19th. However, keep in mind more people are voting by mail, and the postal service is experiencing delays related to the pandemic, so you may want to do this sooner than the deadline to request a ballot on October 27th. First class postage is required to mail your ballot.
Misha Mohr, public information officer for the Oklahoma Election Board, told KOSU that voters should use their best judgement to allow ample time for requesting and returning absentee ballots.
“Allow yourself enough time to request, vote, and return your ballot,” Mohr said. “Consider the distance your ballot must travel in order to make it to the County Election Board.”
Absentee ballots sent by mail must be received by your county election board no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day.
“Voters who requested a standard absentee ballot, have the option to hand-deliver their absentee ballot to their County Election Board no later than the end of the business day, the Monday prior to the election,” Mohr said.
How is my absentee ballot protected?
For decades, Oklahoma has had ‘chain of custody’ laws on mail absentee ballots. Those laws state that only the voter may return their absentee ballot to the county election board. It is a felony for a person to vote and submit an absentee ballot issued to another person.
In 2020, a new law that was enacted created a definition for ‘Absentee Ballot Harvesting’ which is punishable by law in Oklahoma.
Absentee ballot harvesting, by one definition is “collecting or obtaining an absentee ballot from another person with the intent to submit, transmit or return the ballot to election officials on behalf of that person."
‘Ballot harvesting’ is legal in some states and allows volunteers or paid workers to go to the homes of voters to collect absentee ballots and turn them in en masse to county election boards.
Spouses or parents who return ballots with the voters consent and official agents assisting people confined to nursing homes and members of the armed services are protected by the law.
The criminal penalties for absentee ballot harvesting involving ten or more absentee ballots is a felony, punishable by 5 years in prison, a $50,000 fine or both. If it is less than 10 absentee ballots, that’s considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by one year in jail, a $10,000 fine or both.
How does the state of emergency issued by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt impact my absentee ballot?
The state of emergency allows for another option for verifying the absentee ballot affidavit. Under standard procedure, ballot affidavits must be notarized to be considered valid. Under the state of emergency, voters may forego the notary requirement and submit a copy of a valid form of identification, such as a driver’s license.
A ‘Physically incapacitated’ absentee ballot affidavit and a caretaker absentee ballot affidavit will both have a pink stripe. This affidavit may be witnessed by two people or the voter can submit a copy of a valid form of identification.
The state election board details the steps to verifying your absentee ballot affidavits here.
If I chose to vote in-person, what sort of safety protocols will be in place?
The Oklahoma State Election Board is required by law to hold in-person and early voting options. The agency has worked with the OU Health Science Center to develop protocol for voting days.
Some of the protocols election officials have enacted include asking people to maintain proper social-distancing requirements and to follow signage and poll worker instructions for receiving ballots.
Poll workers are also instructed by election officials to wipe down equipment with alcohol wipes. The State Election Board has also provided masks, eye protection and gloves for poll workers.
You can find a list of other safety protocols here.
What times will I be able to early vote in-person?
Oklahoma registered voters will be allowed to cast their ballot in-person on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday proceeding the November 3rd election. Those dates are October 29th, 30th and 31st. Voters will be able to early vote in the counties that they are registered in from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, early voting will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You can find early voting locations by county here.
Keep in mind you will still be able to vote if you are in line when voting windows close.
Do I have to wear a mask to the polls?
State election officials and their partners at OU Health Science Center strongly recommend that election workers and voters wear masks or cloth face coverings at in-person voting sites. You may also need to check to see if the city you live in has a mask mandate in place and see if you need to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
What does it mean to postmark my ballot?
Postmarking means your ballot will receive an official Postal Service imprint applied in black ink on the address side of a stamped mail piece. The mark will indicate the location and date the postal service accepted your mailed ballot, which in turn helps election officials indicate if a ballot was submitted on time.
Are there any state questions on the ballot?
Yes. There are two state questions on the November 3rd general ballot in Oklahoma.
State Question 814 is also known as the Decrease Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund Payments and Fund Medicaid Program Amendment which would amend Section 40 of Article X of the Oklahoma Constitution if passed.
A ‘yes’ vote would support decreasing the percentage of the annual money TSET receives from the state from tobacco settlements from 75% to 25%. State lawmakers would then appropriate and expend those funds to secure federal matching money for the state’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare.
A ‘no’ vote would oppose the decrease in funds to TSET, allowing them to maintain 75% of money the state receives from tobacco settlements to be deposited into the TSET Fund - which is used to pay for tobacco prevention programs, cancer research and other programs that are aimed at improving Oklahoman’s health.
Here is State Question 814’s ballot title. This is what you will see on your ballot.
“This measure seeks to amend Article 10, Section 40 of the Oklahoma Constitution (Section 40), which directs proceeds from the State's settlements with or judgments against tobacco companies. Currently, Section 40 directs 75% of proceeds to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET Fund), where earnings may only be used for tobacco prevention programs, cancer research, and other such programs to maintain or improve the health of Oklahomans. Meanwhile, the remaining 25% of proceeds are directed to a separate fund for the Legislature (Legislative Fund). The Legislature can also direct some of that 25% to the Attorney General.
This measure amends Section 40 to reduce the percentage of proceeds that go into the TSET Fund from 75% to 25%. As a result, the remaining 75% will go to the Legislative Fund and the Legislature may continue to direct a portion to the Attorney General.
The measure would also restrict the use of the Legislative Fund. Section 40 currently states only that the Legislative Fund is subject to legislative appropriation. If this measure passes, money from the Legislative Fund must be used to get federal matching funds for Oklahoma's Medicaid Program.”
State Question 805 is also known as Criminal History in Sentencing and Sentence Modification Initiative.
A ‘yes’ vote would support not using a person’s past non-violent felony convictions to impose a greater or ‘enhanced’ sentence on a person convicted of a non-violent felony.
It would also support providing sentence modifications for eligible individuals serving or set to serve sentences that were enhanced based on past felony convictions.
A ‘no’ vote opposes the amendment and would maintain that a person convicted of a non-violent felony can receive an enhanced sentence based on past felony convictions.
Here is State Question 805’s ballot title. This is what will appear on your ballot.
“This measure seeks to add a new Article II-A to the Oklahoma Constitution. This new Article excepts and does not apply to persons who have ever been convicted of a violent felony. It would prohibit the use of a former felony conviction to increase the statutorily allowable base range of punishment for a person subsequently convicted of a felony. Individuals who are currently incarcerated for felony sentences that were enhanced based on one or more former felony convictions, and whose sentences are greater than the maximum sentence that may currently be imposed for such felonies, may seek sentence modification in court. The new Article sets forth a detailed process for such sentence modification, including but not limited to requirements for a hearing, appointment of counsel for indigent petitioners, and notification of victims, and requires that the court impose a modified sentence no greater than the current maximum sentence which may be imposed on a person convicted of the same felony with no former felony convictions, and which results in no greater time served in prison than under the original sentence. It establishes an appeal procedure, provides an effective date, and contains a severability clause.”
Who is running for president on Oklahoma's general ballot?
Oklahoma has 6 options for president and vice president of the United States.
Donald J. Trump and Michael R. Pence (Republican/Incumbent)
Jo Jorgensen and Jeremy Spike Cohen (Libertarian)
Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris (Democrat)
Jade Simmons and Claudeliah J. Roze (Independent)
Kanye West and Michelle Tidball (Independent)
Brock Pierce and Karla Ballard (Independent)
What other statewide races will appear on all Oklahoma ballots?
Oklahoma has a race for one of the three Corporation Commission seats. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is a state agency that regulates oil and gas, fuel, public utilities and transportation industries. The corporation commissioners are elected statewide and serve six year terms. The candidates for that race include:
Todd Hiett (Republican/Incumbent)
Todd Hagopian (Libertarian)
No Democrats filed for this race.
Oklahoma has a United States Senate race. Every state has two senators, who run for election every six years.The candidates for this race include:
Jim Inhofe (Republican/Incumbent)
Robert Murphy (Libertarian)
Abby Broyles (Democrat)
Joan Farr (Independent)
A. D. Nesbit (Independent)
What is straight-party voting?
Straight-party (ticket) voting allows a voter to choose a party’s entire pool of candidates by a single ballot mark. Voters use only the single ballot mark to vote instead of voting for each candidate individually.
Oklahoma is only one of six states in 2020 who offer straight ticket voting on the general election ballot. The other 5 states with straight-ticket voting include Alabama, Indiana (with an exception), Michigan, Kentucky, and South Carolina.
Oklahoma has options for straight-party voting for Republican, Libertarian and Democratic candidates, since all three parties are recognized by the state.
Do I have to fill out everything on my ballot?
No. There is nothing wrong or unlawful about leaving a ballot selection blank.
“You do not have to vote for everything on your ballot in order for your ballot to be counted,” Mohr said. “The voting machine will read and record only the selections you have made on your ballot.”
How much postage does my returned absentee ballot require?
One Payne County Election official told KOSU they recommend voters use the same amount of postage used to mail the ballot out. That amount can be found at the top right corner of the ballot envelope.
Can we vote by mail?
"In Oklahoma, no excuse is needed to vote by absentee either by mail or in-person," Mohr said.
How do l apply for mail-in voting?
According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, you may write a letter to your county election board to apply for absentee ballots.The letter must contain the following information and be mailed to your county election board.
Your birth date
The address at which you are registered to vote
The election or elections for which you are requesting ballots
The address to which the ballots should be mailed
Where can I get my absentee ballot notarized?
There are several financial institutions and other organizations that are offering free absentee voter services. You can find a list of those institutions and organizations here.
Has there been an uptick in the number of Oklahomans voting by absentee this year?
"Yes, we have seen an uptick in absentee ballot requests, however, this is also quite typical for big election years. While absentee ballot numbers have been increasing steadily over the years, Oklahoma voters still primarily vote in-person on Election Day," Misha Mohr told KOSU in an email.
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