With the election being less than 24 hours away, many Oklahomans are spending time today digging their voter registration card out of the junk drawer and googling State Question 793 to figure out exactly what Walmart wants with our eyeballs. However, some Oklahomans will be staying away from the polls tomorrow not because they don’t want to participate, but because sometimes it’s a lot harder to cast your vote in Oklahoma than in other states. And that ain’t right.
Let’s start with what it takes to actually register to vote in Oklahoma. Our state’s voting laws require Oklahomans to register to vote or update their polling location address at least 25 days before an election. Which is kind of back asswards not only because 16 other states allow same day voter registration, but also I can’t think of a single good reason not to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election. I mean, unless you’re wanting a more conservative vote because:
1. College kids are more likely to vote democratic, but are probably registered to vote at their permanent addresses in their hometowns. Because come on, college kids can barely remember “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.” What makes you think they’re going to remember to update their voter registration nearly a month before the election?
2. Same day registration increases voter turnout in general. For those who are satisfied with the status quo in our government, this can be pretty damn scary.
On top of the registration time line deterring people from voting, the way Oklahomans register is pretty archaic and inefficient. Though online voter registration was legalized in our state in 2015, as of this year Oklahoma has yet to implement it. It’s almost like our lawmakers and government officials really don’t give a sh*t about making it easier for citizens to exercise their political rights.
But it’s not just the barriers to voter registration that may be changing the outcomes of elections. It may also be where Oklahoma voters go to cast their ballots. Studies in other states have found that when voters go to churches as their designated polling places, they are more likely to vote conservatively. That being said, as of February over 160 out of the 215 precincts in Oklahoma County had a church as its registered polling place. I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist here, but I don’t look half bad in a tin foil hat.
But once Okies are registered at the First Baptist Church closest to their house, they have to make sure they have the proper identification to cast their vote. In Oklahoma, you can bring your voter registration card or a government-issued ID to the polls to vote. Proponents for voter ID laws say it’s important to require Oklahomans prove their identify to deter voter fraud. You know, voter fraud, a crime committed by 4 whole people across the US during the 2016 presidential election and a total of 31 people since the year 2000.
That being said, those against voter ID laws claim that requiring identification does more harm than good, being that an estimated 11% of voters do not have proper identification. Since most of that 11% consists of minorities, the poor, students, and vulnerable adults, it seems like voter suppression is more of an issue than actual fraud.
But what’s even more crazy is that if you find some way to get registered in the right city before the 25-day deadline and make it to the right polling place with a valid ID, you still may have problems voting for who you want. For example, though registered independents can vote in democratic primaries, most of Oklahoma’s primaries are closed. This means if you aren’t registered for a recognized political party, which in Oklahoma is a republican, democrat, or libertarian, you can’t vote in a primary. Also, though many candidates across the United States have successfully won elections through write-in votes, Oklahoma does not allow write-in candidates on ballots. Granted, half of our state would probably write in a WWE wrestler or Jesus H. Christ as a candidate, so we probably can’t be trusted with that anyway.
Hail to the chief.
But in all seriousness Oklahoma does have some crazy voting laws, many of which keep the voices of Oklahomans from being heard. Which, I am beginning to suspect, is probably the point.
Plus, taking photos in voting booths is still illegal. I am not sure what effect having the ability to take a selfie with your ballot would have on the election results, but as a millennial I want the right to make anything an Instagram post. Or twitter @squirrellygeek