Oklahoma voters who are blind to electronically cast votes in future elections
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt recently signed a new law that will enable registered voters who are blind to vote by electronic absentee ballots in Oklahoma, if they are unable to vote at their precinct polling locations on election day.
House Bill 1711, authored by Senator Paul Rosino (District 45) and Representative Brian Hill (District 47), will become effective July 1, 2023.
“Voting is one of our greatest freedoms as U.S. citizens and providing this new, more convenient way for those who are sight impaired to exercise this critical right is a huge accomplishment and one I’m so grateful to have been a part of,” Senator Rosino said. “I want to thank the advocates, my fellow legislators and everyone else who helped get this important piece of legislation across the finish line and signed into law.”
The legislation permits electronic delivery of ballots and balloting materials to Oklahomans who are legally blind, as defined in section 72 of Title 7 in the Oklahoma Statutes.
The Oklahoma State Election Board secretary will create a system for electronic delivery of absentee ballots and may include requirements similar to those used by voters in military service.
“The ability to personally vote is among the highest fundamental rights in our Democracy,” Representative Brian Hill said. “Ensuring that visually impaired Oklahomans’ ability to personally vote is crucial and among the greatest duties we have as Americans.
The signing of HB1711 into law ensured eligible voters. who are legally blind, will have equal access to the ballot box, fundamentally preserving their constitutional voting rights in Oklahoma.”
Eligible voters may use their personal computers to privately and independently mark accessible absentee ballots, which must be returned to their county election board secretary using the existing absentee ballot process.
Election board secretaries will process these absentee ballots using the same process required by law for absentee ballots.
“We are grateful to Governor Stitt, Senator Rosino, Representative Hill and all the legislators who supported this landmark legislation to empower Oklahoman voters who are blind to privately and independently cast their ballots for the candidates of their choice,” Melinda Fruendt, executive director of Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services said.
“We also acknowledge the efforts of advocates from the blind community, including Fatos Floyd from Tulsa and Jean Jones from Oklahoma City, who worked closely with legislative leaders to make voting more accessible for those cannot use standard print.”
“Rusty Clark, OK State Election Board assistant secretary, was instrumental in coordinating with the blind community and leaders on this important legislation,” Fruendt said.
Under provisions of the bill, an unqualified person who applies for an absentee ballot intended for voters who are blind will be guilty of a felony.