Oklahoma voters head to the polls amid pandemic to pick leaders, resolve state questions
Oklahoma voters head to the polls Tuesday to voice their preferences for president and Congress, while also deciding whether to take another big step to reduce the state’s high incarceration rate.
Voters will also decide whether to re-elect Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett and whether to retain some state Supreme Court justices and criminal and civil court of appeals judges. Some voters will also have state legislative races and local contests and questions on their ballots.
Through Monday afternoon, about one-fifth of Oklahoma’s registered voters had already cast ballots, either through the mail or in person.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. All voters in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Oklahoma State Election Board officials are predicting heavy turnout and said Monday that lines are typically longest before work, during the lunch hour and after work.
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said, “Our county election boards are facing challenges they’ve never experienced before, but they have been preparing for this election for months.
“We want to assure Oklahomans that every registered voter that wants to vote will be able to vote. This election will be conducted safely, fairly, and securely. We ask that voters be patient and courteous not only to other voters, but election workers as well."
Now familiar safety precautions will be in place. OG&E is pledging to have power restored at all Oklahoma County polling sites, but the state Election Board said power outages wouldn't prevent voting anyway since the state uses paper ballots.
President Donald J. Trump is expected to win Oklahoma’s seven electoral votes easily, with the only uncertainty being whether he can take all 77 counties.
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U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican first elected to the Senate in 1994, is expected to win another six-year term at the age of 85, despite 31-year-old Democrat Abby Broyles’ campaign to portray him as out of touch with Oklahomans.
U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, is the only one of the five U.S. House members from Oklahoma with a competitive race. How she fares against Republican state Sen. Stephanie Bice, of Oklahoma City, will determine whether the state’s seven-person congressional delegation has a Democrat.
The House is expected to remain in Democratic control after Tuesday’s elections, meaning most or all of the Oklahoma members will be in the minority next year. If the Senate flips to Democratic control, Inhofe would lose his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee, if he is reelected; Inhofe has cited his leadership of the powerful committee as one of the reasons he ran for another term.
Horn, Bice and outside groups have spent several million dollars on the 5th District congressional race, easily the most expensive in state history. The district includes most of Oklahoma County and Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.
Outside money has also helped fuel the campaign for State Question 805, the state’s latest proposal to reform the criminal justice system. If approved, the question would amend the state constitution to prohibit judges and prosecutors from employing sentence enhancements to lengthen the time that repeat, nonviolent offenders spend in prison.
Also on statewide ballots is State Question 814, which would give the state Legislature more control over money in the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, created by state voters to contain money from the funds paid by tobacco companies to settle the multi-state lawsuit in the 1990s.
In Oklahoma County, voters will elect a Black sheriff for the first time by choosing between Republican Tommie Johnson III, who knocked off incumbent Sheriff P.D. Taylor in the GOP primary, and Democrat Wayland Cubit.