At a time when voter suppression efforts seem to dominate the headlines, it was refreshing to see the Oklahoma House of Representatives pass a measure that would add an extra day to the early voting calendar.
The fourth day of early voting would only be available to voters who take part in a presidential election should House Bill 2663 become law. Oklahomans would be able to cast in-person absentee ballots Wednesday through Saturday rather than Thursday through Saturday.
The measure was prompted by concerns expressed by Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols. The Oklahoma City Republican said there were voters in his precinct who reported waiting more than three hours to cast a ballot on Election Day this past year.
Echols said he knows there were voters “who walked away” because “they couldn’t wait hours and hours to go and vote.” There is no excuse for why voters should be made to wait hours and hours to cast a ballot for the candidates of their choice.
There would be additional costs to adding an extra day of early voting — about $34,000 in the state’s most populous county. And county election officials who find it difficult to recruit the number of people needed to staff precincts and tabulate results might find that additional day more taxing.
But what is the cost considered too much for the freedom of self-governance in a representative democracy? This nation has sacrificed much more for liberty.
While we applaud the progress made with HB 2663, we understand there are measures being considered that would have the opposite effect. The Brennan Center for Justice reports more than 250 bills that would suppress voting rights are being considered by lawmakers in 33 states, including at least one in Oklahoma that would make it more difficult to cast absentee ballots.
We support those measures that encourage civic engagement and wider participation and oppose those that undermine the founding principles of equality.