Gov. Henry to Boost Turnout with Early Voting Expansion
In an effort to boost voter turnout, Governor Brad Henry today announced he will urge the Legislature to expand early voting in Oklahoma.
According to election officials, early voting has become increasingly popular with each passing election cycle in Oklahoma. During last year's presidential election, for example, the state set a record for ballots cast during the three-day early voting period, with long lines and multi-hour waits experienced at polling places around the state.
To improve early access to the polls, Gov. Henry wants to expand early voting to seven days in state general elections, so Oklahomans can cast ballots the full week before election day.
"The more we can do to increase participation in the democratic process, the better for Oklahoma and the country as a whole," said Gov. Henry. "Early voting has been tremendously popular since it was first implemented, particularly in 2008 when people waited in lines for hours to cast their ballot, so it only makes sense to extend the period. It's an easy way to boost turnout and give Oklahomans a better opportunity to have their voices heard when it counts."
Under Oklahoma's current law, voters can cast ballots at their county election board on the Friday, Saturday and Monday before election day. Gov. Henry's proposal would keep the three-day early voting structure intact for primary and run-off elections, but would expand it for the higher turnout general election, adding the preceding Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for a seven-day early voting period.
Because county election boards use existing staff and precinct officers to accept ballots during the early voting period, Gov. Henry believes the proposal can be implemented efficiently.
Some 32 states already have some form of early voting and most of those states allow votes to be cast at least 15 days or more before the election. Oklahoma's three-day period is among the shortest of those early voting states.
"If other states can provide greater flexibility to their voters and give them more time to cast ballots, Oklahoma can do it too. We want to be as user-friendly as possible. The big winners are the voters and our democratic process," said the governor.
The initiative will be part of the governor's agenda for the 2009 legislative session.