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Winning in court, losing on the ground: uncertainty clouds U.S. voting rights
10/27/16 |
Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 15:45

U.S. voting rights advocates scored a string of courtroom victories this year that rolled back some of the nation's most restrictive voting laws. Now they face another challenge: making sure those rulings are not undermined by officials who oversee elections at the local level.

With early voting already under way ahead of the Nov. 8 election, local officials in several states are trying to enforce restrictions that have been suspended or struck down in court, civil rights advocates say. In some cases, the action appears to be the result of bureaucratic confusion. In other cases, they appear to be actively resisting the law.

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Oklahoma Election Info

Upcoming Elections in Your State

2016 General Election: November 8, 2016

Voter Registration Deadline: October 14, 2016


Election Day:

The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. central time.

Absentee ballots must be received by the voter’s County Election Board by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. 

Early Voting:

You can vote at the County Election Board office in the county where you are registered on Thursday, November 3rd and Friday, November, 4th from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday, November 5th from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

How to Find Your Polling Place:

You can determine your proper polling place by checking the Oklahoma State Election Board website and searching the Online Voter Tool (https://services.okelections.us/voterSearch.aspx).


Already registered? Verify your voter registration status.

Registration Deadlines: The registration deadline is 24 calendar days prior to Election Day.  The last day to submit a registration application is October 14, 2016, meaning your application must be postmarked or submitted electronically by that date.  Oklahoma does not have Same Day registration.

If you will turn 18 during the 60 days before an election, you may register between 25 and 60 days before the election.

How to Check Your Registration: You can determine whether you are registered to vote by checking the Oklahoma State Election Board website and searching the Online Voter Tool (https://services.okelections.us/voterSearch.aspx) or calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Registration Eligibility:  To be eligible to register in Oklahoma, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States;
  • Be over the age of eighteen on or before Election Day;
  • Be a bona fide resident of the state of Oklahoma.
  • NOT have been declared by a court to be an “incapacitated person.” If a court declares a person “partially incapacitated,” the person must be permitted to vote unless the court’s order specifically restricts that person from voting.
  • NOT be serving a felony sentence, regardless of whether the sentence was suspended or you were paroled.  Once the full length of your sentence has expired, you must re-register before you may vote.  However, if you received a deferred sentence or a full pardon, you are not subject to the ineligibility period.

How to Register:   Oklahoma residents may register in person or by mail.

By Mail:  You can download a mail-in form from this website: https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Register_to_Vote/.  You can also pick up an application at your County Election Board, post offices, tag agencies (local motor licensing agents), libraries and many other public locations. 

Once you complete the form, you can mail it to the State Election Board.  The registration card is already addressed, but you must add a first-class postage stamp. 

In Person:  You will be offered a voter registration application when you get your driver’s license and at public offices where you apply or update your information for food stamps, Medicaid, WIC, and welfare.  If you fill out your voter registration application form when you receive it at the agency, the agency will mail the form to the State Election Board for you.  You may also deliver the form in person to your local County Election Board Office.

Identification Required for Registration:  You are asked to provide an identification number when submitting your voter registration application.  The form asks for an Oklahoma driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number if you do not have a driver’s license.  If you do not possess either form of identification, you must indicate so on the form and, according to the State Board of Elections, you will be registered without presenting further identification information. 

Voter Identification Card:  When your application is approved, the County Election Board will mail a voter identification card to you.  Your voter identification card lists your name, address, political affiliation, and the polling place for your voting precinct.

If You Want to Vote Early:  Oklahoma has early voting options (also known as in-person absentee voting).  You can vote at the County Election Board Office in the county where you are registered from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday before all elections, and from. 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  on the Saturday before federal and state elections.

If You Want to Vote by Mail:  Any voter in Oklahoma can vote by mail by submitting a request for an absentee ballot.  You are not required to state a reason for the request.

There are a number of ways you can apply for an absentee ballot:

  • Apply online using the Online Absentee Ballot Request form, which is available at:  https://www.ok.gov/elections/Vote_by_Mail.html
  • Submit the Absentee Ballot Request Form to your local County Election Board by mail, e-mail, fax, or personal delivery.  The Request Form is available from all County Election Boards and the State Election Board, or can be downloaded from the State Election Board’s website at https://www.ok.gov/elections/Vote_by_Mail.html
  • Write a letter to your County Election Board, which contains your name, birth date, address where you are registered to vote, the election(s) for which you are requesting ballots, the address to which the ballots should be mailed, and your signature.

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is 5:00 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding the election.  For this election, the deadline is November 2, 2016.

An absentee ballot must be received by the County Election Board before polls close on Election Day.  Mailed absentee ballots must be notarized except under special conditions, which exist for voters who are physically incapacitated, are caretakers for a physically incapacitated person, nursing home residents, and those who are in the military or living overseas.  You can search for notaries at the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s website (https://www.sos.ok.gov/notary/search.aspx).

Oklahoma law requires all registered voters to prove their identity before voting in person.  Either a valid photo identification or a Voter Identification Card will suffice.  Those voters who do not provide the requisite identification may vote by provisional ballot. 

Photo Identification: To be valid, the photo identification must satisfy all of the following:

  • Show the name of the person to whom the document was issued, and the name “substantially conforms” to the name in the Precinct Registry
  • Show a photograph of the person
  • Not be expired (identification that does not expire is valid)
  • Be issued by the United States, the State of Oklahoma, or a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation

Valid forms of photo identification include:

  • Oklahoma Driver License
  • Oklahoma Nondriver ID
  • Tribal Membership Card
  • US passport
  • US Military ID

Voter Identification Card:  You may also use the voter identification card you received by mail from the County Election Board when you registered to vote, so long as the name on the card “substantially conforms” to the name in the precinct registry.  This card can be used even though it does not include a photograph or an expiration date.

Affidavit With Provisional Ballot:  If you do not have or if you refuse to show proof of identity, you may vote by provisional ballot and prove your identity by signing a sworn affidavit.   Note that a provisional ballot will only be counted if it is cast in the precinct of your residence (except if you have moved and are voting at an old precinct, discussed further below) and if evidence of valid voter registration and identity is found.  If you have not shown proof of identity, the provisional ballot will be counted if:  (1) your name on the affidavit substantially conforms to your name in the voter registration database, (2) your address substantially conforms to the address in the voter registration database, (3) your birth date matches the information in the voter registration database, and (4) your driver’s license number and last four digits of your Social Security number match the information in the voter registration database (unless this information was not provided upon registration, in which case this requirement will not apply).  If you have legally changed your name or address prior to voting, and have not updated that information in the voter registry, you may note these facts on the affidavit and simultaneously submit a form to update your voter registration information to reflect these changes.  The ballot will be counted if your previous name and/or address can be verified through the steps above.

VoteRiders has created Oklahoma voter ID info cards in English and in Spanish.

If you have not updated your voter registration with the new address, you will be permitted to vote the ballot of the precinct where you are registered (the old address) for one last time, but will be required to update your voter registration to reflect the new address and to vote at your new precinct in any future elections.

Upon filling out a form to update your new address and presenting that form to either the inspector of the precinct in which you are registered (the old address) or to a member of an in-person absentee voting board of the county where you are registered, you will be permitted to vote a regular ballot in the precinct where you are registered (the old address).   The updated registration form may be presented at the same time you appear for in-person voting.

You can also vote absentee by mail.  When applying for the absentee ballot, you must include the old address under which you are currently registered in order to qualify for the absentee ballot, but should request that the ballot be sent to your new address.  The absentee ballot sent to you will be the one for the old precinct. 

Military and other overseas citizens may use the standard procedure for voting by mail, but there are also special provisions for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and merchant marine, commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with family members of all these groups, and other citizens who reside outside the United States (together these groups are called UOCAVA voters).

FPCA:  UOCAVA voters can also use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot.  They may receive their absentee ballots through the new Oklahoma Military and Overseas Ballots Online System (https://www.fvap.gov/oklahoma) by filling out an FPCA form and submitting it.  Voters who request absentee ballots through the Oklahoma Military and Overseas Ballots Online System are notified by e-mail when a ballot for an election in which they are eligible to vote becomes available.  Voters must still return voted ballots to their designated County Election Board by regular mail or by fax.  In order to be counted, a UOCAVA voter’s ballot must be received by the appropriate local election official by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, or the voter must fax or mail the ballot no later than 12:01 a.m. on Election Day.

Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot:  The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (“FWAB”) (federal form SF 186) serves as an emergency backup ballot that UOCAVA voters may use.  Uniformed Service UOCAVA voters, and their dependents and spouses, may use the FWAB whether they are located inside or outside the United States (including APO and FPO addresses), provided that they are away from their voting residence for service-related activities.  They must apply for a regular ballot early enough for their local election officials to receive the request at least by 5:00 p.m. the Wednesday before the election.  If they do not receive their regular ballot in time, they may use the FWAB.  Additional information can be found at https://www.fvap.gov/vao/vag/chapter2/oklahoma.

Persons convicted of a felony are ineligible to vote for a period of time equal to the time set forth in their judgment and sentence.  This ineligibility period runs for the entire length of the sentence, regardless of whether their sentence was suspended or they received early parole.  However, persons convicted of a felony, but who have received a deferred sentence or a full pardon, may register to vote so long as they are otherwise qualified.   


Top Issues to Field

For more information for voters with disabilities, find a National Disability Rights Network partner in your area.

For more information for student voters, visit the Student Voting Guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Information provided by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

Voting as a Student

As a student, you have a constitutional right to register and vote in the place you truly consider to be “home” — whether that’s your parents’ house, your apartment, or your dorm room. But before you make the important decision about where to vote, make sure you know the voting rules (and sometimes consequences) of registering to vote in that state.

More Info On Student Voting

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2016 Election Information for your state