After the Oklahoma State Supreme Court ruled that residents casting absentee ballots in the upcoming elections will not have to get their ballots notarized, House Republicans passed an amended bill to reinstate the notary requirement. The amendment, Senate Bill 210, was authored by Representative Chris Kannady (R-Oklahoma City).
Kannady argued that voter fraud would have increased had the amendment not passed.
“I’ve had people tell me that it is absolutely ridiculous that I go and serve my country… and now I want to curtail voting,” Kannady said. “The worst thing you can do is fraudulently vote. To me, it is akin to stolen valor. And this is the way we can prevent that from happening.”
“In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Senate Bill 210 makes exceptions that would be in place for the June 30 primary election,” reports The Oklahoman. “If an emergency declaration is in effect within 45 days of a scheduled election, absentee voters would not have to get their ballot notarized. Instead, a person could sign the ballot and mail it back with a photocopy of their driver’s license.”
The move quickly garnered criticism from vote-by-mail advocates, including the Oklahoma Policy Institute, which said the legislation “places unneeded barriers for our neighbors who want to vote safely via absentee ballot.”
Legislation considered today places unneeded barriers for our neighbors who want to vote safely via absentee ballot.
— Oklahoma Policy Institute (@OKPolicy) May 6, 2020
I mean, it fucking figures that @Kannady4OK91Rep would equate voters scared of dying from a fucking pandemic and requesting their absentee ballots as fraud. That whole "exercising democracy" thing is, in fact, unusual in Oklahoma. #SB210formerlySB459formerlySB1779
— MaryAnn Martin (@soonerhawkeye) May 6, 2020
So the voter suppression effort being led by Oklahoma Republicans right now is based on a secondhand story about people requesting absentee ballots *during a pandemic*? https://t.co/VZ8N1lcJvE
— em dash aficionado (@imjacobnotjames) May 6, 2020
Remember folks, these are members of the Oklahoma House Of Representatives.
All of them, including Kannaday, can be VOTED OUT in November, absentee ballot or in person.
— Judge Radar (@OKCNightCourt) May 6, 2020
House Majority Floor Leader Emily Virgin said Republicans sought to pass the bill because they want State Question 802, a proposal to expand Medicaid, to fail on June 30, the day of the election.
“I find it pretty ironic that we found a way to let representatives vote by proxy when we’re not at the Capitol, but we’re not willing to trust the public to have sort of the same process in place,” she said.
The Oklahoma State Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week; The League of Women Voters argued that the notary requirement would hurt voter turnout during the upcoming elections due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organization pointed out that the law change no longer required absentee voters to have a notary’s signature on the paperwork.
“Respondent is barred from issuing ballot forms, instructions, and material suggesting notarization and/or a notarized affidavit form is the only means through which the requisite affidavit for absentee voting may be accomplished,” the Supreme Court’s order said.
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.