Oklahomans Are Being Denied the Right to Vote Because of Misinformation, ACLU Charges

Affiliate: ACLU of Oklahoma
August 17, 2005 12:00 am

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Statewide Survey Shows Counties Fail to Provide Accurate Information on Felon Voting Regulations

OKLAHOMA CITY– A preview released today of a recent survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, in connection with the national Right to Vote Campaign, reveals that many Oklahoma counties do not know the state law on felony disfranchisement and are spreading bad information to eligible voters.

ACLU of Oklahoma staff attorney Tina Izadi called the results deeply troubling. “”The state should move swiftly to correct this problem before more people are denied their legal right to vote,”” she said, adding that a more comprehensive report detailing all the survey’s findings will be released at a later date.

According to the preliminary survey results, many counties do not know how and when to permit former felons to register. Because of this widespread lack of information, thousands of people are deprived of the fundamental right to vote even when they are legally entitled to exercise that right. Oklahoma law mandates the restoration of voting rights after an individual serves the term of his or her original sentence. Yet, initial analysis of the survey results shows that many counties fail to accurately convey this information.

The ACLU said that perhaps most alarming of all the results is the blatantly incorrect and inconsistent information given by officials in Roger Mills county. The faulty information included allegations that a person may register to vote seven years after a felony conviction regardless of the length of the original sentence, and that people with certain misdemeanors, including those that are drug-related, cannot vote.

In addition, the survey found that:

· 21 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties (27 percent) either would not provide information as to when people with felony convictions may re-register to vote or provided incorrect information regarding the period of time that must elapse after conviction.

· Six counties (8 percent) refused to answer when asked when a person with a felony conviction becomes eligible to vote again, and two of these counties subsequently gave wrong information.

· Seventeen counties (22 percent) responded incorrectly when asked when people with felony convictions become eligible to re-register to vote. The majority of these counties indicated that felons must either wait double the term of the sentence or twice the amount of time spent in jail.

“”These initial findings show that a large number of Oklahoma county election boards are unable to accurately provide voter registration-related information to the state’s voters,”” said ACLU Felon Re-enfranchisement Fellow Laleh Ispahani. “”Because the information that county election boards provide influences whether people exercise their right to vote, these officials do a serious disservice to voters when they give inaccurate information or simply do not know the answers.””

The next elections in Oklahoma take place on September 13. Oklahomans who want to vote in the elections must register by August 20. Registration forms are available online at: http://www.state.ok.us/~elections/voterreg.html.

More information on the Right to Vote Campaign is available online at www.righttovote.org.

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