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Senate panel scraps effort to bar non-citizens from voting

Oklahoma’s Legislature will not advance a proposal to tweak the state’s constitution to make more clear non-U.S. citizens are not allowed to vote. 

The legislation from Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, would have asked voters to alter Oklahoma’s constitution to say "only citizens of the United States" are allowed to vote. 

Oklahoma does not allow non-citizens to vote, but the constitution does not explicitly exclude non-citizens from voting, Bergstrom said in a Senate Rules Committee hearing Wednesday. 

Oklahoma defines qualified electors as all citizens of the United States, who are age 18 or older and residents of the state. Bergstrom's Senate Joint Resolution 23 would have reworded the definition to make more clear non-citizens are not eligible to vote.

Citing cities like San Francisco and College Park, Mayland that are allowing non-citizens to vote, Bergstrom said he wants to prevent the same from happening in Oklahoma.

“It is the same as always in that everyone who is a citizen is going to be able to vote, but if you’re not a citizen of the United States you will not be able to vote in the state of Oklahoma,” he said.

Bergstrom, who said he does not think non-citizens are voting in Oklahoma, pointed to North Dakota, where voters passed a similar measure in 2018.

SJR 23 faced bipartisan opposition, and was voted down 7-3.

Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, questioned whether this was enough of an issue to warrant putting the question before Oklahoma voters. 

Sen Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, echoed similar concerns. She also said she feared the legislation would result in distrust of Oklahoma's elections. 

"I’m concerned that this bill is not a significant enough change to warrant putting it on the ballot for a statewide initiative," she said. "I’m concerned that it implies that our election system is anything less than trustworthy."

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Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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