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Posted by Laurie Phillips | Mar 31, 2024 | 0 Comments

Unconstitutional Disqualification of Absentee Ballots

Do you vote by mail-in ballot?  Do you know someone who votes by mail-in ballot?  Have you or someone you know received a letter from the Election Board that their vote was rejected?  Did the person understand why their ballot was rejected? 

Oklahoma elections have had a history of integrity until recently.  The presidential primary's percentage of mail-in ballot rejections in Tulsa County went into the double digits.  Why?  The State Election Board issued new disqualification guidance to County Election Boards, state-wide, for the acceptance or rejection of a standard absentee ballot.

How does Election Law help me to be a better Family Lawyer?  Protecting the vote is integral to any democracy.  It does not matter whose "team" a voter is on.  Family lawyers spend more time advocating for their clients than any other practice. This takes skill, not just in the courtroom.  To be effective, an ability to thoroughly analyze all aspects of the law is necessary. Family lawyers protect the constitutional rights of their clients every day. 

Understanding the law requires more than just reading one statute.

There are many interpretations of a single word or phrase. We all know that "words matter". Title 26 of the Oklahoma Statutes directs what is required to have a mail-in ballot count.  The recent rejection of these ballots was based on an unpublished/unofficial legal opinion by an Assistant Attorney General.

The State Election Board relied on an unpublished/unofficial opinion to forego the Administrative Procedures Act and amend the rules. An unpublished/unofficial opinion should never be relied upon, especially when it affects a constitutional right. Reliance on the unpublished/unofficial opinion has placed the authority with an Assistant Attorney General to enact new rules without following any of the notice requirements.

The State Election Board is a constitutionally created entity. Their ONLY power is supervisory -- to supervise elections in Oklahoma under the directives from the legislature. They do not have the power to change the rules.

Exercise your 1st Amendment Right

Megan Cruz, my Practice Manager, brought this to my attention. Megan is on the Board of the Tulsa County Election Board.  It made her soul hurt when she was outvoted by the other two (2) board members on whether to accept or reject a vote.  The other board members, rejected Absentee Ballots because the Voter did not complete all the blanks on the printed Affidavit provided by the State Election Board. Ballots were not counted because the Voter did not print their name on the Absentee Voter Affidavit.  Megan exercised her right to question the exercise of governmental power.  Megan is an excellent example of how one person can make a difference by speaking up -- by questioning what she feels is clearly wrong.  The clients of 918Lawyer are very fortunate that they get to work with a person that cares as much as Megan Cruz.  I know that I am beyond fortunate to have her as part of the team.

When it comes to rule-making authority, the only authority that is bestowed on the State Election Board Secretary is the method for marking the ballot. Statutes set out all other requirements for a valid absentee vote. A voter does not have to follow every procedure contained in the absentee ballot packet mailed to the voter for their vote to be counted. The majority of those procedures are for the convenience of the Election Board and have no rational relation to whether the Voter is qualified to cast a ballot.

New "Rules"

26 OS 14-112.1 specifically spells out what is required to be in the Affidavit. Those requirements are also printed on the top of the Affidavit with a WARNING to the Voter that their vote will not count if the Affidavit is not signed and notarized. Absent from the explicit warning is the additional requirements of the State Election Board.The State Election Board has interfered with the qualified voter's right to have their vote counted.

The Election Board requires unnecessary information on the Affidavit.  They have also misapplied the statutes concerning notarization. The State Election Board has interfered with a qualified Voter's right to have their vote counted.

The Election Board has made new rules which disregarded statutes

  • Printing the Voter's name
  • Requiring dates
  • Non-statutory requirements as to the validity of a notarization
  • Mailing of the voted ballot by spouses
Rejection of Mail-In Absentee Ballots

An untold number of absentee ballots have been rejected Statewide. A full analysis of the unconstitutional and unlawful disenfranchisement of absentee voters may be downloaded at the link at the bottom of the page. You will also find the documents referenced.

Reading and understanding a statute requires an extensive analysis. Interpretation is more than taking a cursory look at the text.  An analysis requires being curious enough to ask questions and look further to come to a conclusion.  A Voter should not have their vote not count because he or she did not print their name on a line. 

This error not only has deprived an untold number of Oklahomans of their right to vote and have their vote counted. A voter does not have a private right of action. This error is an election irregularity. It will cause an election to be successfully challenged when the number of uncounted absentee ballots exceeds the vote margin. 

Absentee Vote Unconstitutional Disqualification


XB AG Letter

XC Handbook

XD Enclosure

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