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Oklahoma Watch: How Oklahoma Republicans, Democrats Are Taking Aim at Voting Bills

Dozens of bills filed in advance of Oklahoma’s 2022 legislative session are seeking to change how, when and where Oklahomans vote.

Though a number of the proposals seek to expand voting times or make it easier for some to vote, others could force residents off the state’s voter rolls or add hurdles for absentee voters in the name of security and preventing fraud.

An Oklahoma Watch review of bill filings ahead of the session beginning Monday found about 75 elections or voting-related that can be heard this year.

In addition, there are more than a dozen shell, or placeholder, bills with titles such as the “Election Reform Act of 2022.” These bills currently do not have any language attached, but House lawmakers can swap in proposals during the session.

Of the bills with language so far, about 20 seek to add days, extra opportunities or methods for Oklahomans to vote or get registered to vote. About the same number of bills would add new requirements, trim ineligible residents from the state’s voter rolls or create new post-election audits or reviews.

The proposals come after Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas and several other Republican-led states responded to unfounded and refuted claims about the 2020 presidential election by enacting laws making it harder for many to vote.

With others calling for national or state-level changes to open up voting, Oklahoma became one of the few Republican-led states to expand voting access last year with passage of a bipartisan bill adding an early voting day for presidential elections.

It’s unclear whether state lawmakers will be looking to shore up voting requirements, provide more opportunities to vote or largely leave the state’s election laws untouched this year.

Stephanie Henson, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, said she hopes lawmakers look to expand voting rights.

“I don’t think we have a problem here and I think a lot of these (restrictive) bills are unnecessary,” she said. “And if we can just make it a little easier on one another to practice our right to vote, why don’t we do that"?

Oklahoma Watch, at oklahomawatch.org, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that covers public-policy issues facing the state