Oklahoma senator files legislation to extend early in-person voting
OKLAHOMA CITY – While more Oklahomans voted in November than in the 2016 presidential election, the state still ranks last for voter turnout as a share of the total voting-eligible population, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, wants to improve voter participation and has filed Senate Bill 440 to extend in-person early voting from three days to one week.
“Oklahoma has the shortest in-person early voting period in the nation. Three days is an extremely limited amount of time for citizens to cast their early votes, especially when you consider people’s busy schedules and that they have to drive to their county election board, which can be a significant distance for many Oklahomans,” Pugh said. “Allowing one week to cast early in-person ballots will help improve voter participation and turnout to ensure more Oklahomans have their voices heard and are able to participate in our greatest freedom as Americans.”
Under SB 440, voters could cast an early in-person ballot the entire week, Monday through Saturday, preceding any election at their county election board. Currently, this type of early in-person voting is only available the Thursday through Saturday before an election.
According to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), early voting periods in the U.S. range in length from four days to 45 days, with the average length being 19 days.
Pugh said Oklahoma’s short in-person voting time frame is inconvenient and can deter citizens from voting.
“I waited four hours to vote on election day, and I’m afraid most people are too busy or aren’t physically able to stand in line that long,” Pugh said. “We need to provide adequate time to vote early just like other states to give Oklahomans more flexibility, which will hopefully entice more citizens to participate in the election process.”
According to the Oklahoma Election Board, just over 1.56 million Oklahomans voted in the November general election, an increase of nearly 7.5% from 2016. Nearly 69%, or more than two-thirds, of registered Oklahoma voters cast their ballots. The U.S. Elections Project, however, found that just 55% of the state’s 2.85 million voting-eligible citizens participated in the November election, while more than 66% of eligible voters nationwide participated.
Pugh has been a strong advocate for improving voter participation since being elected speaking to schools, community groups and other organizations about the importance of civic engagement through voting. He also started a bipartisan nonprofit to encourage young people to get registered to vote when they turn 18 and participate in their local, state and national elections.