Defective Mail-in Ballots Could Be Counted In Oklahoma Under New Proposal

An Oklahoma lawmaker has launched a bid to amend the state's legislation in order to allow people who mail in defective election ballots to fix them and have their votes counted.

Democratic Representative Regina Goodwin said she planned to bring forward a bill to Oklahoma's House of Representatives in the body's next session, the local Tulsa World newspaper reported.

Goodwin was yet to decide on the exact language of the bill, but she noted that individuals who cast their ballots in person and accidentally spoil their slips are provided with an opportunity to recast their vote, meaning there is a discrepancy for absentee voters currently unable to do the same.

"I think the same should be true for people doing absentee ballots," she said.

Taking up Goodwin's argument, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairwoman Alicia Andrews pointed out that some other states use a method known as "curing" to address the issue of defective ballots sent in by absentee voters.

Under the process, when a voter's signature is missing or fails to match the one authorities have on file, or if there is another issue with the ballot slip, officials are required to contact the affected individual so they can correct the mistake and make a valid vote.

"What happens now is if someone fails to sign the affidavit or their driver's license has expired, they are given a credit for attempting to vote but their ballot does not actually count," Andrews said of Oklahoma's approach.

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Election workers sort absentee ballot envelopes at the Lansing City Clerk's office on November 02, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan. John Moore/Getty Images

Goodwin's plan divided local election officials, however, with the Tulsa County Election Board split over the issue of amending Oklahoma's election processes.

Board member Bruce Niemi threw his support behind the proposal for creating a route for those who return defective mail-in ballots to correct the errors and have their vote counted.

"There are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to have a correct affidavit and identification or notarization before that ballot is counted," he said.

Niemi also confirmed Oklahoma had the necessary technology to identify and notify absentee voters who returned defective slips.

But Tulsa County Election Board Chairman George Wiland came out against the plan, saying he did not see the need for any amendment to existing processes.

"Because there are ample instructions in the ballots mailed out to the voter that should clearly identify what is required," Wiland said.

Tulsa County Republican Party Chairman Bob Jack meanwhile said he backed Goodwin's idea in principle but also registered concern about the logistics of notifying individuals who had returned defective ballots and any subsequent recasting of votes.

Jack added that he would only support any move such as the one proposed by Goodwin if the deadline for correcting absentee ballots was the same as for those casting in-person ballots.

"I would not be a proponent of moving the line," he said.

According to Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman, about one percent of mail-in ballots received were rejected in this year's election.

Nearly 445,000 individuals statewide took part in the November 3 poll, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, 279,186 of whom were absentee voters.