Boost Electoral Participation

Boost Electoral Participation

Oklahomans are patriotic, but our voting record is undermining that reputation. Our plunging levels of civic participation are reaching crisis levels. … This matters because it influences everything else. Oklahomans hand over billions of dollars to government, and they need to stand up and be a part of this process or they likely won’t care for the results.”

-Senator David Holt (R-Oklahoma City)

Oklahoma voter turnout has fallen to near the lowest in the nation.


  • In this year’s midterm elections, less than 30 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls to cast a ballot for Governor and other offices. This was the lowest turnout in at least 50 years and perhaps in state history.
  • In 2014 a majority of Oklahoma’s Legislature took office without facing any opponent in the primary or general election.

We can do better!

There’s a lot Oklahoma can do to make voting easier and give voters more choices. Proven reforms include:

  • Online voter registration
  • Extended early voting
  • Permanent absentee voting
  • Instant run-offs
  • And more…

Unless Oklahoma can find a way to get more citizens engaged in our democracy, we have little chance of solving the challenges we face as a state.

Bill to Watch

This session, over a dozen electoral reform bills were introduced and several made it out of the House and Senate. These four bills would make it easier for Oklahomans to vote and expand choices at the ballot box:

SB 313: Allows for Online Voter Registration 

(Sen. David Holt/Rep.Gary Banz):


Talking Points

  • Rising generations of voters are simply not used to a world where simple tasks like registering to vote must be done on paper.  
  • 19 states offer fully online voter registration and another five states offer limited online access. 
  • The state has already received federal funds that can be used for this purpose, and over time, moving to an online system will save money.
  • Online registration would be optional only and would not do away with traditional paper registration.
  • Because information would be handled securely online, there is less potential for fraud and less potential for mistakes than with paper registration forms.
  • Legislators from both parties sponsored online voter registration bills this session and SB 313 has moved through the process with strong bipartisan support.
  • Click here for a blog post on the subject. 

SB 315: Permanent Absentee Ballot option 

(Sen. David Holt/Rep. Elise Hall):

Talking Points

  • The state already allows for absentee voting, but a new application must be filed each and every election.
  • Absentee voting is preferred by many with physical disabilities, limited transportation, irregular work schedules or other obstacles, and allows more time to study the ballot for those who wish to do so.
  • Permanent absentee voting would aid our military personnel stationed outside Oklahoma.
  • Absentee ballots would still need to be notarized, as a way to safeguard against any possible fraud (SB 173  raises the cap on the number of absentee ballots a notary can sign from 20 to 100).
  • Under SB 315, a voter can choose to receive all ballots by mail until they opt to cancel their absentee voter status or a ballot is returned as undeliverable. 

HB 2181: Third Party Ballot Access

(Speaker Jeff Hickman/ Sen. Marty Quinn)

Talking Points

  • Lowers the threshold for the number of signatures needed to gain recognition as a political party to 1 percent of the total votes cast in the last Governor’election.
  • Currently Oklahoma has one of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation, which has served to keep all but two parties off the ballot.  

SB 312: Consolidate Local Elections

(Sen. David Holt/Rep. John Echols):

Talking Points

  • Consolidates election dates for local candidates for office to two dates in the spring and two dates in the fall.
  • Currently, elections can be held almost monthly, which serves to drive down turnout. 

What You Can Do

More Resources