By The Banner Staff
OKLAHOMA CITY – The last thing a returning military serviceman or woman might be thinking about when they come home is rushing to their local election board office to make sure they can vote.
Senate Bill 718 will change the law, extending the voter registration deadline so military servicemen and women’s votes will still count when they return from overseas deployment.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a Senate bill sponsored by state Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow, this week that would protect the voting rights of military personnel by authorizing that they be allowed a provisional ballot.
Even though the bill was approved in both the House and Senate, Holland had amended it to remove some language and it returns to the Senate for a final approval. Holland said it must pass by both sides in the exact language in order for it to be put in front of Gov. Brad Henry. He doesn’t see any issues that will halt the final approval.
“The amendment author was pleased with that amendment,” he said Friday.
Holland said the original bill was authored by Sen. Don Barrington.
“He and I’ve been working on it together,” Holland said. He said believes the idea actually came from the state election board after a research conducted revealed Oklahoma is listed as one of the states with the narrowest window (timeline) for troops returning home to get to vote.
“That’s what initiated it. The state election board wanted to broaden it that so they (military) could get to vote.”
“No one deserves the right to vote more than those men and women who risk their lives in service to their country,” Holland said. “Yet these military men and women run into too many problems trying to vote when they return home from service. This legislation would help protect the voting rights of these military personnel. By extending the grace period from 25 days to 90 days this will allow them a better opportunity to exercise their right to vote by provisional ballot.”
A second portion of Senate Bill 718 deals with another timeline in which political parties have to replace their party’s candidate in the event of his or her death.
“It gives the people respecting the time for the family to grieve. This bill is one of those examples where the republicans and democrats are truly working together,” Holland said.
The bill would extend the deadline a political party’s central committee had to offer an alternate candidate’s name from five to 15 days. The bill would make the deadline five days if the death occurred within 30 days of the general election.
“The voters deserve to have a candidate from their party on the ballot if the candidate they chose in the primary election dies,” Holland said. “That right is given narrow protection under current Oklahoma law. This legislation simply strengthens that protection. The previous 5 day standard was found to tie the replacement of the candidate process too closely to the funeral services. This will better respect the family’s time of grief and sorrow. Representative Buck deserves all the credit for pointing out this problem to the House.”
State Rep. Samson Buck, D-Ardmore, recently replaced former state Rep. Terry Hyman after his tragic death prior to the last election.
Senate Bill 718 passed 99-1 and now returns to the Senate for a vote on House amendments that struck out portions of the bill dealing with the secretaries of election boards and added notification statements regarding it being illegal to charge for notarization of an absentee ballot.