An Oklahoma legislature has made an offer to change state legislation so that people who submit flawed ballots can have them corrected and their votes counted.
Democratic Congresswoman Regina Goodwin said she plans to present a bill to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in the next session of the body, the local newspaper Tulsa World reported.
Goodwin has yet to decide on the exact language of the bill, but she noted that people who cast their ballots in person and inadvertently spoil their ballots have the opportunity to re cast their votes, which means there is a discrepancy for absent voters who are not currently able to do the same.
“I think the same should apply to people who cast absentee ballots,” she said.
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairwoman Alicia Andrews took up Goodwin’s argument, pointing out that some other states are using a method known as a “cure” to address the problem of defective ballots submitted by absent voters.
If a voter’s signature is missing or does not match the signature the authorities have on file, or if there is some other problem with the ballot, the officials are obliged to contact the person concerned so that he or she can correct the mistake and cast a valid vote.
“What happens now is that if someone doesn’t sign the affidavit or their driver’s license expires, they will be credited for attempting to vote, but their ballot actually doesn’t count,” Andrews said of Oklahoma’s procedure.
Goodwin’s plan, however, split local election officials over the issue of changing the Oklahoma election process, and the Tulsa County Election Board was divided.
Committee member Bruce Niemi supported the proposal to create a way for those who return incorrect postal ballots to correct the errors and have their votes counted.
“There are many hurdles to jump through to obtain a correct affidavit and identification or notarization before this ballot is counted,” he said.
Niemi also confirmed that Oklahoma has the technology to identify and notify absent voters who return incorrect ballots.
However, Tulsa County Elections Committee Chairman George Wiland spoke out against the plan, saying he saw no need to change existing procedures.
“Because there are plenty of instructions in the ballots that are sent to voters that should clearly indicate what is required,” Wiland said.
Meanwhile, Bob Jack, the leader of the Tulsa County Republican Party, said he supported Goodwin’s idea in principle, but also expressed concerns about the logistics of notifying people who returned defective ballots and any subsequent rewriting of votes.
Jack added that he would only support a measure like the one proposed by Goodwin if the deadline for correcting absentee ballots was the same as for those who cast their votes in person.
“I would not be in favor of shifting the line,” he said.
According to Gwen Freeman, Secretary of the Tulsa County Elections Committee, about one percent of the ballots received by mail were rejected in this year’s election.
Nearly 445,000 people nationwide participated in the November 3 election, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, 279,186 of whom were absent voters.