SB #1921 would increase the maximum punishment for felony violations of Oklahoma election law from fines of $5,000 to $50,000. It would increase the jail time from two years to five years imprisonment.
"We have seen in recent years groups inflating the voter registration rolls with the likes of Mickey Mouse to the benefit of certain candidates," said Benge, R-Tulsa. "It is our duty to ensure the people of Oklahoma trust our election outcomes."
The measure also adds fraudulent use of an absentee and making a false application to an absentee ballot a felony. It would also make it a felony to knowingly collect or submit voter registration forms that contain false information.
"Clearly the current law was not enough to deter ACORN and groups like it from committing voter fraud. Our hope is that this legislation and stricter penalties will help restore voter confidence in our democratic system," said Rep. Rex Duncan, (R-Sand Spring) who presented the bill in committee. "Free and fair elections are the backbone of our democracy, and it is important that those who would deliberately and purposely sabotage the voting process be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Duncan concluded.
Oklahoma’s colorful political history is littered with scandals. Most Oklahomans remember the County Commissioner scandal of the 1980s, which had over 200 people indicted/convicted, and the recent McMahan/Stipe/Phipps scandal, but few remember a voter fraud scandal that rocked Oklahoma in the early 80s?
Back in 1983, then Oklahoma State House Speaker Dan Draper and House Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon- both Democrats- were convicted of vote fraud. The convictions were later overturned, but it did force Draper to leave office. Draper and Fitzgibbon were accused of mailing illegal absentee ballots in an effort to get Draper’s dad elected to the legislature.
Debates over election fraud are not new. They have been a staple of discussions about elections and democracy in the United States for more than a century. But in recent years, issues of fraud and voting integrity have increasingly come to the forefront of public policy discussions over the health of America’s democracy. With the consistently low voter turnout rates and obstacles to citizen participation motivated various efforts to increase voter registration and turnout—efforts that in turn raised questions about voting integrity. Critics of some reforms—such as Oregon starting mail-in voting, the loosening of guidelines for absentee ballot use, and, most notably, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known as NVRA or the “motor voter” law)—have charged that these reforms increase the potential for voter fraud. Other frequently proposed reforms, such as Election Day Registration, continue to be criticized on the same grounds. Implemented with the pretense they will make voter registration more convenient, they also make it easier to commit voter fraud.
Benge and Coffee have the right idea- punish those who cheat in elections by increasing the fines and jail time, but they need to take another run at Voter ID. When he vetoed the ID bill in April, Governor Henry said, “At a time when it is difficult to attract more than half of the registered voters to the polls at any given election, we must make voting easier and more convenient for registered voters, not more difficult and confusing.” How is it confusing for a voter to have to show an ID to vote? It has never been easier to cast your vote. Most elections have early in person absentee balloting which has expanded the hours to vote by twenty hours. Twenty! Mickey Mouse said, “Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes.”
Walt Disney famously said about his creation, “When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it’s because he’s so human; and that is the secret of his popularity.” But he’s not human and while Mickey may be popular, if Senate bill #1921 gets signed into law, Mr. Mouse won’t be voting in Oklahoma elections because those that got him on the voter rolls will be in jail.