The modern political climate has led to a large amount of confusion regarding “mail-in voting” for this election. County election officials maintain that the process is safe and reliable. In fact, voting fraud in general is not even close to being an issue in the United States.
A study by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank that analyzed 250,000,000 votes, found that there have only been 1,200 documented cases of voter fraud in the past 20 years. Of those 1,200 voting fraud cases, only 204 involved mail-in ballots.
In Oklahoma, mail-in voting fraud is virtually non-existent. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghani said that since 1983, only three documented cases of voter fraud have been linked to mail-in ballots in Oklahoma.
The primary problem in the debate about mail-in voting is confusion between an “absentee” ballot and a “mail-in” ballot. For all practical purposes, they are one and the same. The only slight distinction is that in some states mail-in ballots are automatically mailed out to all registered voters.
In 2016, the state of Florida changed the terminology from “absentee” to “vote-by-mail” because all registered voters are permitted to cast a ballot without showing up at the polls.
Although some states require an accepted excuse to cast a vote by mail, voters in Oklahoma are allowed to cast an “absentee” ballot without giving a reason.
The current pandemic has resulted in more people wanting to vote by mail. In August, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt extended the COVID-19 emergency declaration, which meant that voters in the November election could cast their mail-in votes without having their ballots notarized. They need only to include a photocopy of one of the following:
A photo identification issued to you by the United States, by the State of Oklahoma, or by a federally recognized Native American nation or tribe that has an expiration date which is after the election date, or
A photo identification issued to you by a branch of the United States armed forces because you are a member or a retired member of that service branch, or
The free Voter Identification Card mailed to you by your County Election Board when you registered to vote. (Please contact your County Election Board if you need a new Voter Identification Card mailed to you.)
Creek County Election Board Secretary Joy Naifeh says that there are three categories of an absentee ballot (mail-in ballot): a regular absentee ballot, a ballot for those who are elderly and are vulnerable to the virus, people who are physically incapacitated, or a caregiver for someone who is incapacitated; and a ballot for military personnel. People who are elderly and at risk, physically incapacitated, or their caregivers, need only to have two other people witness and sign the ballot.
Absentee ballots are placed in a yellow sleeve, and the elderly/disabled ballots are placed in a pink sleeve. This helps the Election Board staff differentiate the types of ballots. Residents of long-term care facilities and veterans centers are allowed to absentee vote under existing Election Board procedures for those facilities. Those wishing to have a ballot notarized may do so at any bank, free of charge.
In addition to your absentee ballot, your packet will include instructions for voting, preparing, and returning your ballot. Your packet will also include a “secrecy envelope” for your marked ballot and a pre-printed, green envelope to return your absentee ballot back to the County Election Board.
You may apply for absentee ballots for one election, several elections, or for all elections in which you are eligible to vote during the calendar year in which the application is submitted.
To apply for an absentee ballot online, simply go to elections.ok.gov and click on the “OK Voter Portal.” You will be directed to a page that gives links to voter information and voter services. There is a box marked “Request an Absentee Ballot” to begin the process.
You may also apply for an absentee ballot by calling the Creek County Election Board at 918-227-3529. An application will be mailed to you with instructions to fill it out properly. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is always 5 p.m. on Tuesday preceding the election, which in the case of the November 3rd general election, is October 27th at 5 p.m.
If you are a uniformed service member’s spouse, or an overseas citizen, you must apply for an absentee ballot using the OK Voter Portal or go to fvap.gov to download and complete the Federal Postcard Application.
An absentee voter must return his or her own absentee ballot to county election officials.
In most cases, voters return their voted absentee ballots to the county election board by U.S. mail or by a private mail service that has delivery documentation. An absentee ballot must be received by the county election board by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. In 2020, the USPS recommends mailing your voted absentee ballot at least one (1) week prior to the election date. First class postage is required for U.S. mail. The ballot packet envelope will have the amount of postage needed, which is approximately 70 cents. To be on the safe side, if you do not have the exact postage, place two first-class stamps on the envelope. Given the current state of the Post Office, it is highly recommended that you mail your ballot as soon as possible.
Voters who requested a “standard” absentee ballot (Yellow Affidavit), which is the most common type of absentee ballot, may hand-deliver their own absentee ballot in-person to the Creek County County Election Board during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hand-delivered ballots must be returned no later than the end of business hours on the day before the election, and the voter must show the same identification required for in-person voting. It is unlawful to hand-deliver another person’s absentee ballot.
Those who requested “physically incapacitated” or “care for physically incapacitated persons” absentee ballots (pink affidavit) must return their ballots by U.S. mail or by a private mail service that has delivery documentation.
There are different requirements for special “emergency incapacitated” absentee ballots and for nursing home voters who are visited by an absentee voting board.
For further questions, call The CreekCounty Election board, or visit ok.gov/elections.