In Oklahoma, More Than 155,000 See Voting Status Changed to ‘Inactive’

August 2, 2019 by Dan McCue
Paul Fraser at the voting booth Tuesday morning June 5, 2018 at the Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School in the City Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON – More than 155,367 Oklahomans had their voting status changes to “inactive” this week after they failed to respond to an address confirmation notice sent to them by the state election board.

“Oklahoma has very few incidents of voter fraud,” said Misha Mohr, public information officer for the Oklahoma State Election Board.

One likely reason why, Mohr went on to tell The Well News, is the state’s vigilance in maintaining clean voter records, “in addition to the many layers of security we have in place.”

Under a 25-year-old state law, the election board is required to perform a biennial voter list review, purging duplicate registrations and the names of deceased voters, while also confirming the residency of those who haven’t voted in the past few years.

However, not every voter receives an address confirmation notice.

By law, notices are sent to voters with a potential duplicate registration in another county or state, voters who surrendered their Oklahoma driver license in another state, voters who had a first-class mailing from the election board returned as “undeliverable,” or voters who have had no voter activity in the prior three years.

Voters who receive the notice then have 60 days to respond, either by returning an enclosed address confirmation card to the election board or confirming their address using the Online Voter Tool on the election board website.

“Maintaining clean and updated voter rolls isn’t just required by law, it also protects our democracy by making it far more difficult for someone to use outdated voter lists to attempt to commit fraud or disrupt our elections,” said State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax in a written statement.

In April, the elections board removed 91,306 names from its voter rolls, including 3,030 duplicate voter registrations, and 88,276 inactive voters who hadn’t confirmed their addresses after receiving a confirmation notice in 2015 and who failed to vote in any election held in the state through 2018.

The inactive voters removed include more than 36,000 registered as Democrats, 31,000 Republicans and nearly 21,000 independents.

In May, address confirmation notices were sent to 181,000 registered voters, with a deadline to respond by July 27.

Mohr said while the address confirmation process is “mostly automated, it does require an enormous effort — both at the county and state level.

“We field many questions from voters and the media regarding the process,” Mohr said. “In fact, publicity about the process often prompts “active” voters — who have not received a notice — to call and verify their status, update their registration, or cancel the registration of a deceased relative.”

If an address confirmation notice is returned as “undeliverable,” or if a voter doesn’t respond within 60 days, the voter’s status is required to be changed to “inactive.”

When the deadline elapsed, 155,367 notices had either gone unanswered or been returned undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service.

Of the voters declared inactive for failing to respond to the 2019 address confirmation notice, 58,399 were Republicans; 53,334 were Democrats; 42,879 were Independents; and 755 were Libertarians.

“We want to stress to voters that an ‘inactive’ voter is still a registered voter and is still eligible to vote,” Mohr said. “Voters can automatically change their status to ‘active’ simply by voting or updating their registration.

“‘Inactive’ voters who do not have any voter activity through the next two General Elections are required by law to be removed from the voter rolls following the 2022 General Election,” Mohr said.

In January, the Oklahoma State Election Board reported that the state had the highest number of registered voters following a gubernatorial election since the board began recording voter registration statistics in 1960.

This year’s count revealed that 2,126,897 people registered to vote, an increase of nearly 111,000 voters from January 2018.

The statistics show that Republican Party voter registration continues to grow, as do the numbers of registered Libertarian and Independent voters.

Republicans now make up 47.4% of Oklahoma’s electorate, with 1,008,775 registered voters; followed by Democrats, at 36.6% or 777,770 registered voters; Independents, at 8 percent or 331,078 registered voters, and Libertarians, at 0.4% or 9,274 registered voters.

“We want every voter who is eligible to vote to be able to cast a ballot. In fact, we encourage any voter who has questions about their status to contact either their County Election Board or the State Election Board.

“They can also confirm their registration using our Online Voter Tool. Those who need to make changes can do so here.

“Maintaining clean voter rolls is not only required by state and federal law, we feel it helps us maintain the integrity of our election system,” Mohr said.

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