Oklahoma Senate Formally Objects To Federal Voting And Elections Bill

Mar 15, 2021

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Oklahoma Senate passed a resolution on Monday objecting to federal legislation on elections, voting and ethics.

H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, could greatly expand voting access in some states, including Oklahoma. The bill includes requirements for states to set up automatic voter registration, offer same-day registration and hold two weeks of early voting.

The bill covers a lot of other ground as well. Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said he would be interested in a national discussion about election security issues raised by the bill.

"But Title II, which is entitled Election Integrity, actually talks about doing away with this body’s ability to redistrict and moves it to an independent commission. It’s nothing but a power grab," Treat said.

Title II of the For the People Act aims to restore full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed states to start chipping away at. It includes a provision for redistricting to be done by nonpartisan commissions rather than lawmakers.

Conservative groups and Republican lawmakers have deemed the bill a federal takeover of elections. State Sen. George Young (D-Oklahoma City), who is Black, has a different view.

"I appreciate the federal government coming into states and doing some things, because without them, people who look like me would not have the right and the benefit to do what others take for granted, and that is to vote," Young said.

Oklahoma's Senate Resolution 9 passed by voice vote.

In addition to its voting rights and elections provisions, H.R. 1 contains measures like requiring redistricting be done by nonpartisan commissions rather than state lawmakers, and requiring super PACs and "dark money" groups to publicly disclose their donors.

U.S. House Democrats say the legislation is a response to a flurry of state bills from Republicans to restrict voting rights. Oklahoma had a few such bills on the table. The only one left now changes the deadline for submitting absentee ballots and limits who may return one to a voter and their spouse.