Law & Principles
Ray Carter | March 9, 2022
GOP lawmaker joins Democrats against election-security bill
A bill that would mandate investigation of potential voter fraud has advanced from the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Those voting “no” were mostly Democrats, but state Rep. Anthony Moore, R-Clinton, joined them in vocal opposition.
House Bill 2974, by state Rep. Jim Olsen, would require the State Election Board to review the state’s voter registration database each year to determine how many individuals are registered at the same residential address. If more than 10 registered voters share a single residential address, the State Election Board would be required to notify the district attorney for that county and law enforcement would then “investigate any possible criminal violation of the law related to the voter registration.”
Olsen said such situations are relatively rare, and may be legitimate, but also said they warrant a closer look.
“I’ve recently got information about one address with 27 voters registered there,” said Olsen, R-Roland. “Now, that’s not necessarily a violation of election law, but it’s unusual.”
The bill would not apply to nursing homes, veterans centers, medical facilities, multiunit housing, installations of the Armed Forces of the United States, or “other locations authorized in writing by the Secretary of the State Election Board.”
State Rep. Gary Mize, R-Guthrie, said there is a “location in my district where this might actually apply.”
“This is something that was brought to my attention during the last election cycle,” Mize said. “We talked a great deal about it. There was really no path to even check it out or look at it. So I do believe—albeit I respect my colleagues across the aisle—I do believe there are instances where this is an issue.”
Democrats objected to the legislation.
“In the United States, we have a presumption of innocence,” said state Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City. “And this bill turns that on its head by creating a presumption of guilt.”
“There are many multi-generational homes in my district that have 10 or more people who live there and it’s totally legitimate,” said state Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City.
“There’s nothing illegal about this, so it’s a waste of money,” said state Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa.
State Rep. Anthony Moore joined Democrats in criticizing the bill, arguing it is a waste of time and resources for district attorneys to review such voter-fraud concerns.
“With the lengthy amount of work that we put on our DA’s offices and our DA’s investigators, is this something that you believe is necessary to put in, to create more hurdles for them, more things to get done, when they really have so many investigations of criminal activity they should be investigating?” Moore said.
Olsen said he believed the issue does warrant closer review.
“This is part of answering the expectations of Oklahomans all over the state,” Olsen said. “They want to know we have a very secure election system.”
HB 2974 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 66-23 vote. The bill now proceeds to the Oklahoma Senate.
The floor vote marked the second time Moore joined with Democrats trying to kill the legislation. He also voted with Democratic lawmakers in opposition when HB 2974 was heard in the House Elections and Ethics Committee.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.