By Keaton Ross
Oklahoma Watch 

What you need to know about voting in the primary election

 


Oklahomans will soon vote in the first major election since the COVID-19 pandemic surged to a level that locked down much of the state.

The disruption has left many voters with questions about the voting process itself, in addition to basic questions about dates, deadlines and the ballot lineup. Here’s what you need to know about voting in the June 30 primary.

What’s on the ballot?

One of the biggest statewide decisions will be on State Question 802, which would expand Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to cover people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. If enacted, Oklahoma would join 36 other states that have expanded their Medicaid program. As many as 200,000 uninsured Oklahomans could qualify for coverage if Medicaid expansion passes.

Supporters say the initiative would protect the health of low-income residents and bring in hundreds of millions of federal dollars to the state. Opponents say it would be too costly and lead to budget cuts in other core services. The federal government covers 90% of Medicaid expansion, and states cover the remaining 10%.


Elections for the offices will also be on the ballot:

Democratic primary for Congressional District 1. Two challengers are vying for the nomination and the chance in November to go against GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern, who does not have a primary challenger.

Republican primary for Congressional District 2. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin faces two challengers.

Republican and Democratic primaries for Congressional District 4. Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole faces two primary challengers; in the Democratic primary, four are running for their party’s nomination.

Republican and Democratic primaries for Congressional District 5. U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, the state’s sole congressional Democrat, is facing a challenger while nine candidates are seeking the GOP nomination.

The U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Republican Jim Inhofe. Inhofe faces three challengers in the GOP primary, while four candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination.

Republican primary for one of the three Corporation Commission seats. Incumbent Todd Hiett faces one challenger.

All seats in the state House and half the seats in the Senate are up for re-election, although some candidates face no opposition in the primary and will not be on the ballot.

City, county and school district races or initiatives will also be on many ballots.

Because Oklahoma is a closed primary state, Democrats and Republicans will receive separate ballots. Independent voters may opt to vote in the Democratic primary.

Is this the last vote before November?

There will be one more: a runoff election on Aug. 25. To avoid a runoff, a candidate must win more than 50% of the primary vote in races with three or more candidates.

Can I still register to vote?

It’s too late to register for the primary election; the deadline was June 5. You can still register by July 31 for the Aug. 25 runoff election, or by Oct. 9 for the Nov. 3 general election.

When does in-person early voting start?

You can vote before June 30 in person at your county election board office on the following dates:

Thursday, June 25, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday, June 26, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday, June 27, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

How do I find my polling place?

You can locate your polling place, view a sample ballot or verify voter registration information at the state’s OK Voter Portal site. You can also change your political affiliation and residential address.

Does my employer have to give me time off to vote?

If an employee’s work hours conflict with poll hours, state law requires employers to give two hours of paid time off. Time off is not required if an employee’s shift begins at least three hours after polls open or ends at least three hours before polls close. Employers may also opt to adjust an employee’s hours so they have time to vote. Employees must request time off to vote at least three days before the election date. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Will everyone at the polls be using social distancing?

The Oklahoma State Election Board recommends, but does not require, that local polling places use a number of social distancing and sanitizing protocols. Among the guidelines are that voting booths should be spaced six feet apart if possible, poll workers should wear masks and gloves, and voters in line should stand six feet apart.


I want to avoid large crowds. When should I head to my polling place?

Polls are typically busiest in the morning and early evening, when voters are heading to and from work. Crowds also tend to form during lunchtime. With many people still working at home or unemployed, the patterns could change a bit, but in general the best time to avoid crowds at the polls is mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Will voter turnout be heavy?

It will likely be less heavy than turnout for the Nov. 3 general election, which includes the presidential election. But it could be heavier than usual because of the state question on Medicaid expansion. In 2018, nearly 893,000 people voted on the medical marijuana state question in the June primary. That compared to about 62,700 votes in the 2016 primary race with the most voter participation, Congressional District 1; there was no state question on the primary ballot.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. The organization’s website is at http://www.oklahomawatch.org.

 

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