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Local election preview

Voter registration deadline approaching

Stillwater's registered voters have more than just the Presidential race to decide on this November.

As the 2020 election season hurtles toward its inevitable conclusion, it’s time for candidates to start sweating, and for voters to start preparing.

In November, considerably more than just the White House is up for grabs. In Payne County alone, voters will have the opportunity to participate in elections for between 14 and 16 seats.

Most residents of Stillwater will have 16 elections to participate in, as State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, and State Sen. Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater, both face challenges to their re-election.

In addition to the Presidency and these state-level races, two of Stillwater’s federal representatives also face challengers for their seats: U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.

For a complete list of candidates, races, and state questions that will appear on the November ballot, visit the election board’s candidate list online. The O’Colly will be following these races, and releasing more information about individual candidates and offices as Election Day approaches.

Payne County Election Board Secretary Dondee Klein said she expects an increase in both absentee ballots and overall voter turnout this November. She said although the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27, it’s best to submit that request early if possible.

“The news has made absentee voting sound kind of scary at times,” Klein said, “and, that’s one thing that we really need to make sure everyone understands, that it’s fine to vote by absentee mail.”

She said Oklahoma absentee ballots are different than those of other states in a couple of important ways.

“Here in Oklahoma, you have to request an absentee ballot, and it’s only good for one calendar year,” Klein said. “So we don’t get things sent to the wrong addresses regularly.”

Additionally, she said Oklahoma’s voter rolls are clean, in that if a ballot gets returned or marked as undelivered, that voter is taken off of the absentee list.

Klein said it’s important to both request and return absentee ballots early, to make sure it arrives at the election board in time to be counted. But, if voters wait until the last minute and are worried about their votes making it to the election board in time, Klein said they can return their absentee ballots to the election board in person.

“We don’t have a dropbox or anything like that, but you can walk it into our office,” Klein said. “But it has to be your own ballot only, and you had to have received a yellow affidavit, not a pink affidavit.”

Most people who request absentee ballots will receive yellow affidavits, Klein said. A pink affidavit, she said, is for people designated as incapacitated, who would have a harder time making it to the office in person.

Klein said voters who received absentee ballots but decided not to fill them out can still go to their polling place on election day. When they get there, she said the voter will have to sign an affidavit promising that they did not fill out their absentee ballot, but will then be allowed to vote.

For voters who do end up going to the polls in person, Klein warned that the process may look a little different this year.

“When you go to the polls, we need to pack patience and kindness in our pockets,” Klein said.

She said lines might be longer this year, and people will have to stand far enough apart to allow for social distancing. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic and potential delays due to safety precautions, Klein is optimistic that this year’s turnout will impressive.

“If the year that we’re having now doesn’t get people out,” Klein said, “I’m not sure what it will take.”

In addition to making a plan to vote, Klein offered another way for OSU students to participate in this year’s election.

She said poll workers tended to be older and retired, making the COVID-19 pandemic particularly risky for them.

“With that, they are deciding that this is the year to get out,” Klein said, “and so we’re hoping we get some younger people in there that have, you know, a lifetime ahead of them of doing it as well.”

Since some of the people who have traditionally worked the elections are choosing to stay home, Klein said the election board is actively searching for poll workers.

Parties interested in being poll workers, needing to register to vote, or who have any further questions about how to participate in the November election are encouraged to contact the Payne County Election Board, located at 315 W 6th St. Klein said voters are also welcome to give them a call, at (405) 747-8350.