Democrats sue to overturn Oklahoma absentee voting rules
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have sued to overturn the state’s absentee voting rules in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, state party Chair Alicia Andrews said Wednesday.
Requirements that include notarized ballots and a photo identification create barriers to voters, Andrews said in a statement.
“Oklahomans deserve to make their voices heard safely without further barriers to the voting process as we continue to deal with a worldwide pandemic,” Andrews said. “The additional barriers to the mail-in voting process do nothing more than further suppress the votes of marginalized groups and put citizens in harm’s way under the false claims of reducing voter fraud.”
The lawsuit against the state Election Board and Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax comes after a bill signed into law earlier this month imposed the restrictions on absentee ballots.
A spokesperson for Ziriax did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
The bill was passed and signed days after the state Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters and two voters at high risk of contracting the coronavirus that mailed-in absentee ballots do not have to be notarized.
Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday the state is launching an online portal for cities and counties to submit requests for reimbursement from federal funds for their coronavirus-related expenses.
“To be eligible, these expenses must be caused by COVID-19, they must have occurred between March 1 of this year and Dec. 30,” with the requests being processed beginning June 1, Stitt said.
Eligible expenses include new employees, overtime pay and new technology needed to address the virus outbreak, Stitt said.
Core services and personal protective equipment have been the greatest expenses, said Lawton Mayor Stan Booker.
“Some of the biggest examples of expenses that we’ve had has been an increase in overtime related to first responders as well as the expenses for PPE,” Booker said.
Oklahoma will receive an estimated $1.2 billion in funding, said Stitt, who earlier this month named a committee of legislators, including House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, to advise him on distributing the funds.
“We think the $1.2 billion is going to be able to meet all of our municipalities’ needs and the state agency costs to fight Covid,” Stitt said.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 5,532 confirmed coroavirus cases and 299 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, up from 5,489 cases and 294 deaths reported Tuesday,
The actual number of those infected is thought to be much higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can have the disease without showing symptoms.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.