The State Senate approved Senate Bill 718 Monday to make voting easier for military personnel who are not registered to vote and return from overseas service after the registration deadline. The House is the next stop for the measure by Sen. Don Barrington.
"Oklahoma was recently criticized by the Pew Center on the States for not providing our returning military enough time to vote. This measure will give more of our military the chance to let their voice be heard in the election process by extending the time in which they can return home and still be able to cast a provisional ballot without being registered," said Barrington
Currently, military personnel who are not registered to vote and return home less than 25 days before an election, which is the voter registration deadline, are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. SB 718 extends the grace period for those individuals to ninety days. Therefore, any military personnel who return home within ninety days of an election will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, without being registered to vote prior to the deadline.
"For men and women who have been deployed overseas, the last thing on their mind when they return is whether or not they're registered to vote. It's something that can easily slip one's mind until right up to the election," said Barrington. "Their main concern is spending time with family and friends, resting and getting acclimated back to life in the states. Returning home from war zones can be hard for some and we don't want to punish any of these brave souls for accidentally forgetting to register to vote when they've just returned from doing such a tremendous and selfless service for their country."
The bill would apply to any service member and their spouse who has been honorably discharged, is on official leave, or whose service or overseas employment has been terminated.