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Early option for polls gets Gov. Henry’s vote

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: January 29, 2009
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Oklahoma voters should have more time to take part in early voting, Gov. Brad Henry said Wednesday.

The governor said he will ask legislators for additional in-person absentee voting days. The move would increase voter participation, he said.

Under existing law, voters can cast ballots at their county election board on the Friday, Saturday and Monday before Election Day.

The law allows in-person absentee balloting at one location per county and sets the times.

Henry’s plan would keep the three-day early voting structure intact for primary and runoff elections, but would add the preceding Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the general election.

House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, said he wants to look at the details of the governor’s plan, but any election reform package passed this year would have to include a proposal requiring voter identification at the polls.

"First and foremost, what we’re interested in is the integrity of the process,” Benge said. "We’re going to be pushing voter ID very heavily.”

Voters in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties waited two to three hours to cast ballots the Friday and Saturday before the Nov. 4 general election.

Henry said his proposal would not require additional staff members for county election boards.


ELSEWHERE
About 30 states have some form of early voting, and most of those states allow votes to be cast 15 days or more before the election, according to the governor’s office. Oklahoma’s three-day period is among the shortest.

"If other states can provide greater flexibility to their voters and give them more time to cast ballots, Oklahoma can do it, too,” Gov. Brad Henry said. "We want to be as user-friendly as possible. The big winners are the voters and our democratic process.”

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