Election Provision Expires, Notarization Now Required For All Absentee Ballots

Tuesday, January 26th 2021, 6:13 pm

TULSA, Okla. -

An election law related to absentee ballots that was changed early in the pandemic has now expired. People now worry it could create confusion about the proper procedure. 

This only impacts absentee votes, which used to be a small number, but now it’s as many as one in three voters.

Last year, a temporary change allowed voters to submit a copy of their ID with mail-in ballots, instead of having the paperwork notarized. That change expired at the end of the year, and any ballots that aren't notarized will be rejected - unless the legislature intervenes.

Lawmakers approved the change last year because of the pandemic, and fears voters would be unable to find a notary.

In the November election, 75,000 people voted absentee in Tulsa County. 15,000 people have already requested ballots for upcoming elections.

"It goes back to the exactly the way it was before," said Gwen Freeman, the Tulsa County Election Board Secretary. "So if you're submitting a ballot for any of the upcoming elections, unless the legislature changes it's mind, we are bound by law to only approve those absentee ballots that have been notarized."

Disabled voters have a distinct process that allows two witnesses to sign without a notary.

The legislature has several bills up for consideration that would restore the photocopy ID option, but there are also dozens of other bills relating to how ballots are counted, and when elections would be scheduled, that could result in significant changes for how Oklahoma conducts elections.

Freeman said the photocopy ID system worked well, even with a record number of absentee ballots received and checked.

"It worked beautifully. Our rejection rate was well under 1% for November, which I thought was a miracle in itself. We know it's never going to go back to the numbers it was before, possibly because of COVID, but even after COVIDis over and the pandemic is gone, I think people are going to realize that, you know, voting absentee is pretty cool," Freeman said.