Thursday, April 11, 2019




by Steve Fair


Senate Bill # 44 concerns the County Election Boards in Oklahoma.  All 77 counties in the state have an election board secretary, whose job is to conduct fair elections in their county.  Each of the state’s 1,956 precincts has a polling place.  On election day, those polling places are manned by three precinct workers- an Inspector, a Judge, and a Clerk.  They have specific jobs at the polling place and are charged with conducting a fair, impartial election.  The precinct workers are paid a small fee for their 14 hour day.  They are selected by the county election board secretary from lists of registered voters provided by the Chairman of the Republican and Democrat Parties in the county.  There is supposed to be a Republican and a Democrat at each polling place with the third being someone from the Party of the plurality of the precinct or county. 
     SB #44, authored Senator Darcy Jech, (R-Kingfisher) and Rep. Harold Wright, (R-Weatherford) passed the Senate by a vote of 45-1 and passed the Rules Committee in the House by a vote of 7-0.  According to State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax : “This bill was not intended to be controversial in the least.  It is well-reasoned legislation that includes numerous safeguards and was developed with significant input from county election board secretaries.  It has received strong bipartisan support at every state of the legislative process.  This bill is needed to head off a developing poll worker shortage.”  But SB #444 is controversial and here is why:
     First, it appears no input was solicited from political Party leadership.  The poll workers are the eyes and ears of the Party.  Political Party leaders are to provide lists to the local election board secretary for potential workers.  Why wasn’t the leadership of each of the two major Parties consulted?  Were members of the State election board consulted?  That should have happened.
     Second, SB #444 would allow sixteen year olds to work the polling places.  Non-voters should not be allowed to conduct voting.  The polling place is not a learning lab.  Voting polls should be rigid and structured in order to maintain integrity of the ballot box. 
     Third, SB #444 would grant unilateral power to appoint and terminate poll workers to the county election board secretary.  Under current protocol, the local county election board oversees that process.  If implemented, that would change to sovereign rule by the secretary.  That could result in personality and not performance decisions.  While more efficient, it eliminates a safeguard necessary to the voting process.
     The stated reason SB #444 was requested by the election board secretary is the shortage of qualified poll workers, but asking high school students to work the polls is not the answer.  Why hasn’t the state election board partnered with the two major Parties and made an all-out effort to recruit workers from the activists in those Parties?  How hasn’t the local county election board secretaries reached out to the local Party leaders?  Using non-voters is a bad idea.  SB #444 does increase the pay of the precinct workers, which is long overdue, but before it gets to the governor’s desk, it needs to remove the above mentioned provisions. 

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