By Sen. GEORGE BURNS
While there’s a national narrative in the mainstream media that “red” states in Republican control are attempting to restrict voting rights, I’m pleased to share with you that this is not the case here in Oklahoma. Actually, we approved legislation that will expand access to the ballot box for all Oklahomans.
House Bill 2663 expands the period for early voting to include the Wednesday preceding a general election. Previously, early voting days were the Thursday and Friday immediately preceding an election from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then the following Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Now, this three-day period will become four, giving an extra day to voters who may be unable to cast their vote on election day.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many chose to skip voting in-person on Election Day and opted to vote early, leaving extremely long lines at county election boards across the state. Not only will this give Oklahomans more time to vote, but it will help our election workers spread out voters over a four-day period rather than three, and hopefully avoid these issues.
Oklahoma has one of the most safe and secure voting systems in the nation – and that’s due to our laws that carefully blend election security, including proof of identification and signature verification, and access to the ballot box. While our next statewide general election isn’t for another year in 2022, our election board secretaries are already hard at work preparing for what I’m sure will be another successful election cycle.
While it’s been nice to be back home in the district since the legislative session adjourned late last month, I’ve been staying busy working across the five counties within Senate District 5 to meet constituents and hear the issues on their minds. If I haven’t made it to your area yet, please know that I’m working to ensure I reach all corners of the district.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended meetings of the LeFlore County Republican Party, Hugo Lion’s Club, Hugo Rotary Club, Talihina Chamber event, and the Southeast Three Circuit Engineering District, which brings together commissioners across nine counties in southeastern Oklahoma to improve the roads through project management, construction and design in our area.
I’ve also attended the Kiamichi Technology Center’s Auctioneer School fundraising auction, which benefitted battered, abused or neglected children in Pittsburg, Latimer, LeFlore and Haskell Counties through the San Bois CASA. It was a great evening and a little over $10,000 was raised to help children in need. I’ll also spend the weekend at the Talihina Frontier Days Rodeo and Parade, as well as the Veterans parade hosted during the event.
Next week, I’ll be back in Oklahoma City to participate in the Select Agencies hearing, which meets with state agencies that don’t receive Legislature-appropriated funding to hear how they’re using their tax dollars to improve the lives of our citizens. I’ll also attend the annual State Chamber of Oklahoma meeting while I’m in the city.
It’s an honor to serve you and your family at our state Capitol. If you have any questions about legislation, or need assistance with an issue, please contact me by email at [email protected] or by phone at 405-521-5614.