Early Voting

Jason Miller votes early at the Tulsa County Election Board on Thursday. Voters are encouraged to wear a mask to the polls Tuesday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Bring identification and a face mask to the polls on Tuesday.

The ID is required to vote. The face mask isn’t, but is strongly encouraged for the safety of others.

Face masks are just one of the ways Oklahoma’s first election of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed voting.

Perhaps the biggest change is the way people are voting. An unprecedented number of mail-in absentee ballots — more than 141,000 — were requested; by late afternoon Monday, more than 87,000 had been returned.

By comparison, fewer than 30,000 of the nearly 895,000 votes cast on State Question 788 in 2018 were by mail-in absentee — and that was an exceptionally high turnout for a non-presidential year primary.

Whether that large number of mail-in ballots will delay results is unclear. Tulsa County, and many other county election boards, have received permission to process mail-in ballots early, but that still leaves tens of thousands of ballots that could arrive on election day.

Tulsa County, for example, had received and processed nearly 20,000 of the more than 30,000 requested ballots by late Monday afternoon. That means it had no absentee ballot backlog headed into election day, but theoretically could receive 10,000 or more ballots Tuesday.

Absentee ballots received after 7 p.m. Tuesday are not counted, regardless of when they were mailed.

Incidentally, while election board officials know how many mail-in absentee ballots have been received and how many have been counted, they do not know for whom or what (in the case of SQ 802) the votes were cast.

The ballots are fed into voting machines that record the results on what amounts to thumb drives, which are in turn kept in a vault until election day, when they are read by the electronic voting system and added to tabulations.

In-person polling places will operate differently than in the past, too. Poll workers will be wearing full protective gear and voters will be required to abide by distancing guidelines. Pens used to mark ballots will be discarded after one use or sanitized, and voting booths will be continuously wiped down.

Add in a large number of new poll workers, and lines are likely to move more slowly than in the past. Voters, therefore, are asked to be patient.

They may also have to do a little hunting. About 30 polling locations in Tulsa County have moved. Voters affected were notified by mail and received new voter registration cards with the correct location, but the information is also available online from the Oklahoma State Election Board website or by calling the appropriate county board.

Leading the ballot will be SQ 802, the proposed constitutional amendment expanding Medicaid eligibility. It is the only thing on which all eligible voters statewide will be able to cast a ballot.

Republicans have two statewide offices on which to vote — corporation commissioner and U.S. Senate.

The former matches incumbent Todd Hiett against challenger Harold G. Spradling, with the winner meeting Libertarian Todd Hagopian in the Nov. 3 general election.

Incumbent Jim Inhofe, seeking a fifth full term, faces challengers Neil Mavis, J.J. Stitt and Dr. John Tompkins in the GOP Senate primary.

Democrats and independents will be voting in the Democratic Senate primary, where Abby Broyles, Elysabeth Britt, R.O. “Joe” Cassity and Sheila Bilyeu are competing for the nomination.

In the Tulsa area, Democrats and independents will also be choosing between Kojo Asamoa-Casear and Mark Keeter to oppose Republican 1st District Congressman Kevin Hern.

In eastern Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Markwayne Mullin faces primary challenges from state Sen. Joseph Silk and Rhonda Hopkins.

Also on tap are numerous legislative primaries, including some that will also determine who wins the seat, county primaries and the second round of school board elections.

Primaries in which no candidate receives a majority will be decided by a runoff election on Aug. 25.

Acceptable forms of identification for voting include driver’s licenses, passports, voter registration cards and veterans’ identification cards.

Video: Tulsa County Election Board opens for early voting.

Election Day Q&A: What you need to vote Tuesday.

Randy Krehbiel




Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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