OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill that would expand in-person early voting by a day for presidential elections has cleared the state House.
House Bill 2663 would expand in-person early voting from three days to four immediately preceding any presidential election. Under the measure, Oklahomans would be able to vote Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday instead of just Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Locations and the number of places for early voting vary from county to county in Oklahoma
Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said voters in his precinct reported waiting longer than three hours to cast a ballot on Election Day, so he wants to make it easier for voters to access the polls.
“Who knows how many voters walked in and decided they don’t have an hour and a half on Election Day,” he said. “I want to shorten those lines on Election Day. I know I had voters who walked away. They couldn’t wait hours and hours to go and vote.”
Echols said he wishes he could expand early voting access for every election, but during most there are rarely wait times. And, if he can find a way to fund it, Echols said he’d also like to expand early voting during presidential years to include Tuesdays too.
A legislative budget analysis estimates that adding a day of in-person absentee balloting every four years would cost the State Election Board about $40,000 per presidential election. County election boards would also experience varying degrees of cost increases, the analysis found.
In Oklahoma County, adding an extra day would cost about $34,000; in Tulsa County, it would cost about $20,000. The other 75 counties would also see increased costs, though to a lesser degree, analysts found.
The number of people voting early in person has increased, said Misha Mohr, a spokeswoman for the state Election Board.
In the 2020 general election, 167,185 voted early in person; in 2016, 152,126 did, according to election statistics based off votes cast for president of the United States; in 2012, only 112,156 people voted early in person.
Mohr said wait times at early polling locations vary dramatically.
“It kind of varies from county to county depending on how many voters they have in that particular county and how many sites,” she said.
The measure now heads to the state Senate where it will be evaluated on “its own merits,” Greg Treat, Senate president pro tem, said Monday.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.