Voters will be following some new rules when they cast their ballots in Tuesday’s Primary Election.
Polls across Comanche County and the state will open at 7 a.m. to allow the traditional casting of ballots for local, state and federal seats, as well as State Question 802. But, Comanche County Election Board Secretary Amy Sims said in early June that new provisions have been put in place to keep voters and precinct workers safe during the 12 hours of voting that is expected to draw a larger-than-normal turnout because it is a presidential election year.
Voters going to their precincts will see the same safety measures that in-person absentee voters saw late last week, including longer waits because there are fewer spaces inside precincts to cast ballots. Rather than the traditional four-person booths, booths will be limited to two people at a time to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. And, sanitation will be emphasized, Sims said.
“We’re going to clean the machines with alcohol, and clean areas where voters are constantly throughout the day,” Sims said, adding that auxiliary workers will be handling those cleaning duties and ensuring social distancing is followed so precinct workers can focus on voters. “We’ll have signs. We’re going to encourage wearing masks.
“We’re taking every precaution to keep the polling places clean.”
In addition, workers will be wearing masks or facial coverings, and will sit at least 6 feet apart. Voters will be directed to maintain that same social distancing as they cast ballots and as they wait in line.
Most Comanche County voters will be deciding state and congressional races, to include the Republican nominee for State House District 62. Republican ballots are restricted to registered Republicans, while registered Independents may vote in Democratic primary races (which include U.S. Senate and a Democratic nominee for U.S. House District 4).
Everyone will be voting on State Question 802, an initiative petition-led effort to expand Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma.
The provision will amend the Oklahoma Constitution to require the state to expand that insurance coverage to qualified persons over age 18 and under age 65 (not currently covered by insurance and with an annual income at or below the federal poverty level). The proposal would ban the state from imposing new restrictions (beyond those already in place) to make it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid coverage, and the state would have to match federal funds provided to Oklahoma for Medicaid. The state would have to implement Medicaid expansion by July 1, 2021, under the provisions of the state question.
Supporters say the proposal will provide health care coverage for an additional 200,000 Oklahomans while providing the funding that will keep more rural hospitals open. They also say the expansion will bring more federal dollars back to Oklahoma and the net result — beyond coverage for more people — is a positive impact on the economy because of the jobs and spending that will be encouraged.
Critics say they oppose the effort to amend the State Constitution and to force Oklahoma to provide matching funds, meaning potential cuts to core services in difficult budget years. They also say there is no guarantee of continued matching dollars from the federal government, meaning Oklahoma would have to take the money from other services because coverage is mandated in the Constitution. The proposal also doesn’t identify the funding source for state dollars, they said.