Remaining one of the most invaluable aspects of life in the United States, taking part in the Democratic process begins with casting your vote. Whether Oklahoma County is deciding on the new comptroller or the nation is selecting its 46th president, your vote can and will matter. Regardless of who a citizen is in daily life, CEO or fry cook, male or female, Black or white, nobody’s vote takes priority above another. As former President Barack Obama said, “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter.”
Registering to vote is widely considered the individual’s responsibility and is required for an individual’s vote to count. Registering proves to be the tallest barrier to increasing voter turnout. When comparing the amount of U.S. citizens who do not complete this step to those in other countries, the data is concerning.
Research from the Census Bureau and Pew Research Center found that “only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016 … compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2017), 96% in Sweden (2014), and 99% in Slovakia (2016).”
Over 36% of citizens old enough to vote, pay taxes and maintain a job are not registered to vote for the future of the country they live in. The reasoning behind this is data is multivariate, but many suggest that one cause is a lack of knowing how to register.
Luckily, registering to vote in 2020 is much more straightforward than it used to be. Visit vote.gov, select the state or territory the aspiring voter lives in or is planning on voting in and the necessary steps will appear. Most states share a similar voter registration process. However, there are a couple of outliers. For example, Oklahoma does not offer online or election day voter registration.
Oklahomans can also access Oklahoma’s voter registration page and complete the application form from there.
Submitting the voter registration application is traditionally done in person or by mail, but given the current state of the pandemic, mail-in registration should prove the easiest. And while Oklahoma passed an ordinance allowing for online voter registration in 2019, it has been deemed unready for usage in the 2020 election. Knowing this, mailing the registration application will prove easiest.
Once the application is printed and completed, aspiring voters will need to mail the completed form to their home county’s election board office, which can be found through the list of state election board offices on the OK.gov website.
Students living on Oklahoma Christian University’s campus will mail their voter registration form to Oklahoma County’s election board office, located at 4201 N Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. It’s important to note that the deadline for mail-in registration for the state of Oklahoma is 25 days before the election on Oct. 9.
Since the election board reviews and determines the validity of each application, the safest bet for registration is sending the application earlier rather than later. Frequently, declared residents of a separate state from the one they plan on voting in wait too long and are left with little time to start the application process over again.
Typically, after two to three weeks, those who mailed their voter registration forms will receive their voter ID card. If denied, the applicant will receive a letter explaining why it could not be processed.
After successfully registering, voters have a couple of options on how to cast their ballots.
Polling centers across the state will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Otherwise, voters will need to bring at least one of the following forms of identification: a driver’s license, a voter ID card, a military identification card, a state-issued ID card or a U.S. passport. Polling center locations have yet to be officially announced but are typically found at the local library, community center and sometimes university campuses.
In the event of contracting the coronavirus, registered Oklahoma voters can request an absentee ballot, which allows for their vote to be cast without voting in person. The application can be found in the OK.gov site’s voter portal and must be either handwritten and mailed to the County Election Board office or completed through this voter portal.
Voters can also scan the written application and email it to the County Election Board’s public email address. If sent as a letter or handwritten and emailed, the application must include the applicant’s name, date of birth, address where the applicant is registered to vote, the desired election(s) to vote in, the mailing address where the ballot(s) should be sent to and the applicant’s signature.
Once the application is approved and the ballot is received and filled, it should be returned to the County Election Board office by mail or private email with documentation. The USPS has recommended that absentee ballots be mailed no later than a week prior to the election. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is exactly one week before the election at 7 p.m.
Thomas Jefferson once said “we do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” His words serve as the important reminder that people living in the United States are among the freest in the world. It’s subsequently the duty of those people to ensure this country remains that way.