Okla. Bill Could Create Separate Rules for State, Federal Elections
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The Oklahoma Senate is poised to consider a bill that would have state elections take place under different rules than federal contests if Congress were to mandate national election guidelines the state found onerous.
The legislation, House Bill 1415, would effectively bifurcate the administration of state and federal elections if Oklahoma officials — starting with the attorney general — dislike a reform in federal election law.
The bill passed the Oklahoma House on March 8 on a 77-20 party-line vote with all Republicans voting in favor of the legislation and all Democrats in the chamber voting against it.
It has now advanced to the state Senate, where it awaits assignment to a committee.
A spokeswoman for Republican state Sen. Dave Rader, who is championing the bill in the chamber, said the Senate is currently considering bills originating in the Senate as the Legislature has a mandated, March 23 deadline to hear bills in their chamber of origin.
“After such time,” said Celia Scott, the senator’s executive assistant, “the Senate will begin hearing House bills in Senate committees.”
At that time, the progress of the bill will be trackable here.
According to Democracy Docket, which describes itself as a “progressive platform for information, analysis and opinion about voting rights, elections and democracy,” the legislation is likely to pass given the Republican supermajority in the Oklahoma Senate, before heading to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt for his consideration.
The elections clause of the U.S. Constitution allows states to decide their own election policy, but grants ultimate authority to Congress to pass federal laws that supersede state laws.
Last year, federal pro-voting legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate that would have created a minimum national standard for voter registration and access, with many policies much more expansive than current Oklahoma law.
Republican state Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, the author of House Bill 1415, has described the legislation as a trigger bill that would only take effect should federal election laws change in a way that conflicts with state laws.
“Currently, our state election laws are tied to federal regulations,” Crosswhite Hader has explained. “As the U.S. Congress continues to look to amend their election process, as is their prerogative, I am concerned about federal overreach in our state elections. We must be prepared to maintain authority over Oklahoma elections.”
Specifically, the bill states that the Oklahoma attorney general will be tasked with confirming whether a new federal election policy substantially modifies or supersedes the state policy.
If the attorney general determines this has in fact happened and action is needed, the proposed law calls for the creation of a committee within two weeks to determine when, and how, upcoming state elections will be carried out.
The bill would establish that the Oklahoma attorney general would confirm if a trigger has taken place.
If or when the action is needed, a committee is to be established within two weeks to propose policy recommendations on how to implement bifurcated elections.
The committee would be made up of four members each appointed by the House and Senate, as well as the state’s attorney general, the chair of the District Attorneys Council, and the governor or a designee. Their recommendations would be due within 60 days.