By D.E. Smoot
Candidates, political parties and other groups launched efforts to get voters to the polls as election officials geared up for in-person absentee balloting, which begins today.
With a net increase of 114,103 Oklahomans registering to vote since Jan. 15, officials geared up for what is expected to be a heavy turnout for the presidential-year election. Hotly contested congressional and legislative races also could boost early voting numbers.
Ellen Thames, assistant secretary for the Muskogee County Election Board, said she hired four extra people to help expedite the early voting process. In addition to the state’s new voter identification requirements, early voters also are required to complete an application before casting ballots.
“We are out in the hall trying to figure out how to get all these voters and election workers in here,” Thames said Thursday afternoon from the Muskogee County Services Building. “We are bracing for at least 4,000. That’s how many we processed four years ago, but I think there could be more this year.”
Thames said she plans to have in place two teams of two processing applications and checking identification cards before voters are given ballots. Hopefully, Thames said, that will help “voters move through a little faster.”
On the campaign trails, candidates competing for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dan Boren launched their get-out-the-vote efforts. The contest, which is shaping up to be the most expensive the district has seen this century, will be a hotbed of activity as Republicans try to wrest control of the state’s lone Democratic district.
Republican nominee Markwayne Mullin prepared for what his campaign is calling its “BIG 72-hour GOTV (Get Out The Vote) program.” Mullin also has plans that include three appearances with Gov. Mary Fallin. Mullin’s campaign workers will be “door-knocking, calling and speaking to voters” throughout the district.
Democratic nominee Rob Wallace launched a five-day tour with multiple stops in each of the 26 counties that make up the sprawling eastern Oklahoma district. Wallace will wind up his whirlwind tour Monday night with a get-out-the-vote rally at his Muskogee headquarters.
In addition to the federal contests, voters will have a chance to weigh in on area legislative races, six state questions and the judicial retention ballots.
Thames said voters must present an acceptable form of identification before casting a ballot. Acceptable forms of identification include a current voter registration card or an unexpired photo identification card issued by the state or federal government.
Voters unable to present an acceptable form of identification will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Those who cast a provisional ballot must complete and sign an affidavit explaining why the ballot should be counted. Provisional ballots will be investigated after Election Day and counted or rejected based upon the outcome of the investigation.
Voters who plan to cast in-person absentee ballots may do so from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Monday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Regular precinct polling will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
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Early voting hours
Voters who plan to cast in-person absentee ballots may do so from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Monday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Ballots must be cast in the county where the voter is registered.