The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

June 4, 2014

Some voters get more choices to cast early ballots

OKLAHOMA CITY — Early voting options will expand during this month’s primary elections, though only for voters in two of the state’s most populous counties.

Cleveland and Tulsa counties will add early voting locations for the first time, while officials in Oklahoma County say they plan to expand for the general election in November.

A 2013 law allows the counties — all three of which have more than 100,000 registered voters — to run multiple polling places for early voting.

For now, more rural counties are excluded.

“My preference was to try this in the three largest counties and see how it works,” said Paul Ziriax, secretary of the state Election Board. “If it is successful, then we could always come back and revisit that and maybe make it optional for other counties to consider it.”

Oklahoma voters may cast ballots on the Thursday, Friday or Saturday leading to a state or federal election, but until now early voting has only been allowed at county election headquarters, said Ziriax. That’s meant long lines, and even longer drives for voters who don’t live near a county seat.

Opening multiple polls for early voting isn’t a new concept; other states, including Texas, already do it. But this will mark a first for Oklahoma.

“I sincerely hope this is a change that could help increase voter turnout,” said Ziriax. Nearly 2 million Oklahomans are registered to vote.

During the November 2012 general election, nearly half of more than 4,000 early voters in Cleveland County drove from the northern part of the county to Norman to cast ballots, said Anette Pretty, assistant election secretary for the county.

During this month’s early voting period — June 19-21 — they also may vote at the Moore Norman Technology Center, which is closer to Oklahoma City, in addition to the election office in Norman.

Pretty said she hopes the second location will reduce wait times.

“Any way we can serve our voters more conveniently and efficiently, I’m for it,” she said.

Officials in Oklahoma County are more cautious and won’t add new locations until November.

“We want to go slow and deliberate,” said Doug Sanderson, secretary of the Oklahoma County Election Board, who noted lines typically back up during the general election but not during a primary or runoff election.

In November 2012, nearly 14,000 of more than 385,000 registered voters in his county came to the Oklahoma County election office to cast early ballots.

Sanderson said there’s “enormous cost” in adding polling locations. His county spends about $20,000 just to run early voting for three days at its main election office. Sanderson said he’ll have to find another site and staff to accommodate voters for three additional days.

“Basically, I’ve not seen any (studies) that indicate an early voting site increases the voter turnout,” he said. “In my mind, the best way to vote is not to vote at the polls on your election day, it’s to vote by absentee ballot.”

Election officials in less populated counties said they wish the Legislature gave them an option to expand early voting.

“I think it would be good for Rogers County because of the fact that we are such a large county in terms of area,” said Julie Dermody, secretary of the county Election Board.

Rogers County is home to 50,100 registered voters. Nearly 5,000 showed up to vote early in 2012.

Dermody said Rogers County’s population is mostly situated in Claremore and Owasso, on either side of the county. She worries some voters may decide to skip the election if voting isn’t convenient, so she’d like to open a second early voting location in Owasso.

“Not that it needs to happen for every election, but for the large elections, I think it would be very good to have,” she said.

In Garfield County, which has nearly 28,000 registered voters, early voting at the Enid election office has been “pretty wild with 2,700 people coming in,” said Roy Schneider, secretary of Garfield County Election Board.

Schneider recalls years he’s had to direct traffic and times when voters waited about 45 minutes to cast a ballot.

He said he’d like the flexibility of adding another location to accommodate more than one voting machine during elections with the biggest turnouts.

“In general I’m in favor of anything that makes the voting system easier for people as long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the system,” he said. “Anything that could cut down the lines and make voting easier for those that are ready and eager to vote.”

1
Text Only
National and world
  • CDC Ebola web.jpg U.S. warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the travel warning.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Gaza truce comes after days of pushing for a deal

    Finally, less than an hour after all sides signed off on the precise and technical wording for a 72-hour truce, Kerry issued a statement and called a 3:30 a.m. Friday press conference to seal the deal before any party could back out.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan web.jpg Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    The fires were believed caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Congress web.jpg Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

    House Speaker John Boehner accused Democrats of pursuing a “nutso scheme” of trying to seize on the border crisis to try and grant a path to citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Illinois Unemployment_Hass.jpg As U.S. job market strengthens, many don't feel it

    "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom. It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." — Douglas Hunter, who earned $14 an hour before the Great Recession and now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at McDonald's.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads