September 10, 2020
With the general election less than two months away and the ongoing pandemic, I want to discuss something that has become a major concern across our state and that is absentee voting and Senate Bill 210.
SB210 was a result of a State Supreme court decision handed down at the beginning of this year. They ruled that part of our absentee requirements were ambiguous, so SB210 was passed to provide clarification. SB210 allows Oklahoma voters to submit absentee ballots with a copy of their identification or voter identification card, instead of having it notarized, if a public health emergency has been declared within 45 days of an election. Absentee ballots can still be notarized, and if we're not within 45 days of a health emergency declaration, they must be notarized. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the general election will fall within that timeframe just as the primary and runoff elections did.
SB210 also allows Oklahoma residents of long-term care facilities and veterans' centers to vote absentee under existing election board procedures. A facility official would be allowed to collect the required documentation from residents wishing to vote, only if an election board official deputized them.
Those who are ill or quarantined due to COVID-19, those in high-risk categories, and those who may be considered physically incapacitated now have the option of using an absentee ballot with a copy of ID as verification. This ensures that those who are sick or at risk can still vote while still protecting the integrity of our election process. It's important to note that this is not mail-in voting. This procedure still has a verification process and only applies during this health emergency, as declared by our Governor.
Recently, I have received several complaints about the Corporation Commission and its service delivery. I want to make sure that my constituents' voices are being heard. I plan to address these inefficiencies and issues with legislation this coming session. During this challenging year, I know it has been very important to keep our state employees safe, and teleworking has been part of that effort. However, state services should not decline simply because state employees are working from home. We need to ensure accountability and transparency of work and that the needs of Oklahomans are appropriately addressed in a timely manner.
It's essential for me to learn about any state agencies' inefficiencies or any state laws that raise concerns to anyone in our district. If you have any issues or concerns, please bring them to my attention. As legislators, we count on our constituents to come to us regarding any issues. We depend on your knowledge and experiences to help us improve our state.
One issue of great financial importance to Oklahoma is high participation in the Census. I can't emphasize this enough to encourage and remind everyone to fill out the Census for their household.
The Census is a population and demographic count that determines how around $700 billion in federal funding is dispersed to states for hundreds of programs. These include programs for the elderly, disabled, unemployed, and impoverished. They also help crime victims, veterans, homeless, frontline workers, and children in foster care. The funds are used for our roads, hospitals, and prisons. They help in times of disaster like this year with the health pandemic. Unfortunately, Oklahoma had one of the lowest participation rates in 2010. Therefore, our state has missed out on millions of dollars of relief funds.
To put this into perspective, for every 590 Oklahomans not counted, the state will lose around $1 million each year for the next decade. In 2010, nearly 25% of Oklahomans weren't counted. It's devastating for our state. Currently, barely 60% of Oklahomans have participated, and we only have a few more weeks to increase that number.
The Census takes less than five minutes to complete. You can do so online at http://www.2020Census.gov or by calling 1-844-330-2020. The deadline for self-reporting is Wednesday, Sept. 30. Please share the importance of being counted in the Census with your friends, family, coworkers, customers, church, and other community organizations. We must get Oklahoma as close to 100% as possible! The state's next ten years depend on it.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Zack Taylor, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 309.12, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at [email protected] or call (405) 521-5547.