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Looking ahead to the 2024 elections

Residents of Weatherford voted at Life Fellowship Church on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022
Whitney Bryen
Oklahoma Watch
Residents of Weatherford voted at Life Fellowship Church on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

Less than a year remains before the 2024 general election. Capitol Insider talks to Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax about preparations for statewide voting next year.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy, and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Our guest is state of Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax. As always, welcome, Paul.

Paul Ziriax: Thanks, Dick. Thanks, Shawn. It's a pleasure to be on the show again.

Shawn Ashley: I probably don't need to tell you, Paul, but the 2024 general election is less than a year away.

Paul Ziriax: You don't say.

Shawn Ashley: It’s true. And election day will be on November 5th. Registration has been shifting toward Republicans in Oklahoma and independents over the last several years. Where does voter registration stand now?

Paul Ziriax: Well, that's exactly true, Shawn. And as of October 31st, which is our most recent month-in totals, we have a total of 2,288,500 registered voters in Oklahoma. Of those, around 51.7% are Republicans, 28.6% are Democrats, 18.7% are Independents, and just under 1% are Libertarian. So that decades-long trend of a shift toward Republicans and Independents has continued this year.

Dick Pryor: Lawmakers changed the filing period for office. When will filing occur in 2024, Paul?

Paul Ziriax: Well, this election cycle, we're fortunate enough to get to do two filing periods because actually the presidential preferential primary candidate filing period starts December 4th and runs through December 6th. That is where candidates can file to appear on the presidential preferential primary next March and then the regular candidate filing period for state, federal and county candidates actually starts on Wednesday, April 3rd. That's a week earlier than it usually is. It's a three-day filing period. And the reason for that is the legislature adjusted the date of the filing period and the regular primary, which is now June 18th, to provide more time between the June primary and the August runoff to allow for military absentee ballots to be sent out.

Shawn Ashley: You mentioned that the primary election is now on June 18th. When then will the primary runoff election be in 2024?

Paul Ziriax: Well, there's no change there. That still remains as the last Tuesday in August. And so that will be Tuesday, August 27th. And, of course, the general election is set by state law and federal law. That is, that is Tuesday, November 5th. So, it's hard to believe that we have four statewide elections coming up next year and we're less than a year away from that general election now.

Dick Pryor: And will independents again be able to vote in the Democratic primary?

Paul Ziriax: Well, we don't know yet. The deadline for political parties to decide whether they will allow Independents to vote in their primaries is November 30th of this year. And so, we are still waiting to hear from the political parties. But independents or other voters who are interested in that can watch our website. We'll have a notification when we hear one way or the other.

Shawn Ashley: One of the new things you have implemented is online voter registration. How successful has that been so far?

Paul Ziriax: Well, we're very proud to be able to have this new option for voters. It's a convenient option. It's a secure option. I think it'll grow in popularity. It launched in July of this year, and since that time, we've had almost 4,700 people register to vote or update their registration through that system. However, although it is, it is being used about at the level we would anticipate at this point, the largest number of new and updated voter registrations continue to come to us through Service Oklahoma from people who are getting driver's license services, like getting a driver's license for the first time or updating their address on their driver's license.

Dick Pryor: Voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in Oklahoma, but election security remains a concern for a lot of people. Do you have any new election integrity measures coming in the next year?

Paul Ziriax: Well, any time the legislature gets together, they've got some great ideas about elections. And so, I haven't heard yet what bills will be introduced. But I'll tell you this, as the chief election official in our state, there's no one who is more committed to election integrity and security than me. It's my job. And while people have a right to believe things that aren't true, there still are some people out there who like to say things that are inaccurate about elections.

For example, we continue to hear from people who think that our E-Scan voting devices have some secret wireless internet connection, even though those devices were manufactured without any modems, without any wireless capabilities at all, there are people who think that fake ballots can just be, you know, Xeroxed or whatever and put into voting devices when in fact, the security measures that are in place include unique identifiers on each ballot and a requirement that ballots and the voting devices have to be programmed through the same database. There are a number of protections to prevent that. And there are even people out there, Dick and Shawn, who think that I and other election officials received an advance notice in the middle of 2019 that a pandemic was going to be released in 2020 and that somehow election officials were involved in planning that. You know, all that stuff is false, of course. But it's important when there are inaccurate things that are said that we that we try to counter that.

Shawn Ashley: Oklahoma's ranked as one of the lowest states in the nation for the percentage of eligible voters who actually vote. You don't make the policies, but do you see any methods worth considering to encourage greater voter participation in Oklahoma?

Paul Ziriax: Well, one of, one of the statutory job duties of the state election board secretary is to encourage voter registration and to encourage voter participation. And we certainly try to do that from here as often as we can. However, I think there are a lot of things out of control of state election officials or anyone else. One of the things that I think can help drive voter turnout is a perception of competitive races, whether that's for president or for United States senator. And in Oklahoma, I think too often there's, you know, the general public seems to think it's a foregone conclusion who will win in a particular election and I think political parties and candidates often have that same view as well and so they maybe are not spending enough money or as much money here to identify their voters, get them registered, get them turned out to vote compared to, say, swing states where political parties and candidates may come in and spend millions of dollars to identify voters and get them turned out.

But the bottom line is, it's important for voters to know that we have strong election integrity laws in our state, but it's also still convenient to vote. We have an accurate system. Post-election audits and recounts have consistently proven that. Sometimes we hear about absentee voting. I would encourage your listeners to read the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency’s Evaluation of Absentee Voting Laws in Oklahoma. They confirm that it's accurate and secure. And of course, the state election board's website is a perfect place to learn more about elections. And that's oklahoma.gov/elections. Oklahoma.gov/elections. I would encourage your listeners to go there to learn more about elections here in our state.

Dick Pryor: And we are encouraging them to do just that. State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax, thanks for joining us and good luck, Paul, in the year ahead.

Paul Ziriax: It's a pleasure. Thanks for talking to me.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org and look for Capitol Insider where you get podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

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Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.
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