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A new law enacted in 2020 created an official definition of "Absentee Ballot Harvesting" and created new criminal penalties for these acts. Absentee ballot harvesting is unlawful at any election conducted by a county election board in Oklahoma.
CHAIN OF CUSTODY REQUIREMENTS
For decades, Oklahoma law has included important security requirements for mail absentee ballots, including a "chain-of-custody" law that states that only the voter may return voted absentee ballots to the county election board. (See 26 O.S., § 14-108.) In fact, it is a felony for a person to vote and submit an absentee ballot issued to another person. (See 26 O.S. § 16-102.)
NEW LAW IN 2020
Senate Bill 1779 was enacted in 2020. It created an official definition of "Absentee Ballot Harvesting" in Oklahoma and created new criminal penalties for these acts.
ABSENTEE BALLOT HARVESTING, DEFINED
Absentee ballot harvesting is unlawful at any election conducted by a county election board in Oklahoma.
26 O.S. § 14-101.1 defines Absentee Ballot Harvesting as:
1. Collecting or obtaining an absentee ballot from another person with the intent to submit, transmit or return the ballot to election officials on behalf of that person;
2. Submitting, returning or transmitting an absentee ballot to election officials on behalf of another person;
3. Collecting or obtaining an absentee ballot from another person under a false pretense or promise of transmitting, returning or submitting it to election officials on behalf of that person;
4. Requesting or receiving an absentee ballot on behalf of another person;
5. Partially or fully completing an application for an absentee ballot on behalf of another person without that person's prior consent; or
6. Notarizing or witnessing more absentee ballots than allowed by law.
Under Oklahoma law, the following ARE NOT considered to be Absentee Ballot Harvesting:
1. A voter's assistant or agent acting pursuant to law as otherwise allowed by Title 26 of the Oklahoma Statutes;
2. An absentee voting board member, as described in Title 26 of the Oklahoma Statutes, who assists a voter confined to a nursing home or veterans center pursuant to law;
3. An employee of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, the United States Department of Defense or the Oklahoma National Guard who assists a uniformed-services voter in returning or transmitting an absentee ballot;
4. A spouse, relative in the first or second degree of consanguinity or affinity or cohabitant of a voter who forwards an absentee ballot to the voter when absent from the home;
5. A voter's spouse who, with the voter's consent, returns the voter's absentee ballot by mail; or
6. An official action by an election official that is required or authorized by law.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR ABSENTEE BALLOT HARVESTING
Absentee Ballot Harvesting is a serious crime in Oklahoma.
Absentee ballot harvesting involving ten or more absentee ballots is a felony, punishable by five years in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both. See 26 O.S. § 16-104.1.
Absentee ballot harvesting involving fewer than ten absentee ballots is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both. See 26 O.S. § 16-110.