In the middle of trying to fill a massive state budget hole caused by COVID-19, Oklahoma state representatives passed a bill to undo an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision concerning mail-in voting.
Under emergency rules declared to legislate during the virus, lawmakers worked to undo the decision made two days earlier, ruling absentee ballots do not have to be notarized due to an 18-year-old state law.
“It’s sort of par for the course for Republicans across the country trying to make it more difficult for people to vote,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman.
Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, authored the change Wednesday.
“Voters would just send in their ballots without a notary, we all know that to be a fact because it’s easier,” Kannady said on the House floor. “Given what’s happened the last few weeks with unemployment, if you make things extremely easy, it invites fraud.”
If passed in the Senate and approved by the governor, the bill would put Oklahoma back on a list with only Mississippi and Missouri requiring mail-in ballots be notarized, according to a database complied by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Proponents argue without adding back the notary prevision, Oklahoma would be on a list of extremely weak voter verification laws.
“Is your faith in the voters of Oklahoma so lacking that you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt that they are requesting absentee ballots because they are concerned about going out and catching the virus?” Rep. Forest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, asked the bill’s author.
“There is a percentage, however small it may it may be, that want to defraud the system,” Kannady responded. “That is not a label on every single person in the state of Oklahoma.”
The bill also allows voters to mail in a copy of their voter ID instead of getting the ballot notarized during the COVID-19 pandemic.