As the 2020 election season comes around, recent events make it unclear what to expect when gun owners prepare to vote. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to voting in this year’s election.
Mail-In and Absentee Voting in Oklahoma
Oklahoma recognizes mail-in voting as a legal alternative method to voting in person. You may apply for an absentee ballot online, then the Oklahoma State Election Board will mail you an absentee ballot.
If you vote using an absentee ballot, it must be notarized, Okla. Stat. tit. 26 §14-108, or you may submit a copy of a valid state I.D. Physically incapacitated absentee ballot affidavits are available, or caretaker absentee ballot affidavits may be used when needed. The affidavit may be witnessed by two people or the voter may submit a copy of a valid state I.D.
Carrying a Firearm Into a Polling Place
On the other hand, as always, you may vote in person. If you choose to do so, you must remember that carrying a firearm at your polling place may be prohibited. There is no Oklahoma law that prohibits the open or concealed carry of a firearm at the polls; however, the physical location must be considered. The property owner where the polls are located can place a “No Guns” sign to limit carry to only concealed carry or can declare the location a gunfree zone under the business owners provision of the Self-Defense Act.
You also need to be on the lookout for the local voting board renting space for the polls from a church or other private location, thus temporarily creating a government-leased facility at an otherwise private business location. As you may be aware, this will create a temporary no gun zone for as long as the county election board is using the location to conduct business with the public.
Depending on the location of the polling place, there is probably a parking lot or property extending outside of the building where the polls are located. The property owner can control the carry of firearms anywhere on the business owner’s property; and depending on the lease terms, a local election board can control a large amount of land extending from the polls to the parking lot. When in doubt, the best course of action would be to leave your gun at home.
No criminal offense occurs unless the person carrying a firearm is denied entrance to the polls and insists upon entering the polling place that is rented by the election board from a private business.
If the polls are located at a school or in a government-owned facility like a municipal building, then the Self-Defense Act controls and you will not be allowed to carry a firearm due to these locations being a statutory no gun zone.
Demonstrations and Protests
If you decide to vote in person and encounter a protest, I urge you to keep a level head and attempt to avoid escalating the situation. Remember that if you engage protesters and wind up in an altercation, you may end up being arrested prior to getting to cast your vote. This may be the goal of some protestors who are looking to keep those with opposing views from voting.
Voting is a critical civil right and responsibility that we enjoy, and I encourage everyone to vote. After all, every vote counts.
For any questions about voting in Oklahoma, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
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