Absentee-voting service at Okla. banks, credit unions extended

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A collaborative effort between Oklahoma banks and credit unions to ease the absentee-voting process has been extended for the general election.

State bank groups and the Oklahoma Credit Union Association — a division of the Cornerstone Credit Union League, which serves CUs in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas — came together in advance of the state’s June 23 primary to provide locations where voters could have absentee ballots notarized or ID cards photo copied, per state requirements that were modified earlier this year on account of the pandemic. Earlier this month, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order containing a provision that extended those measures through the Nov. 3 general elections.

There are roughly 250 banks and credit unions in the state, according to data from federal regulators for both industries.

The collaboration between the two sides is believed to be the only one of its kind. More than 100 bank and credit union facilities took part in the program during the primary. Nate Webb, executive director of the Oklahoma Credit Union Association, said the number of credit unions participating could grow between now and November, since some institutions may now feel they are managing the coronavirus crisis better and can handle the additional demands of assisting absentee voters.

Specific participation numbers for the bank and credit union services were not available, but Webb said overall absentee voting in the primary measured around 100,000 voters.

“That’s definitely a lot more than normal,” he said. “Normal depends on the primary, on which party has a contentious primary and who’s turning out voters, but 100,000 statewide is pretty significant.”

No substantial changes are expected in the run-up to the general, and the Oklahoma State Election Board will continue to promote the service, though banks and credit unions may also make their own promotional materials.

While the program has been successful so far, Webb said it’s too soon to tell if there will be an appetite for extending these changes beyond the general election or making them permanent.

“That’s a political decision,” he said. “As you know, when you start getting into political decisions it becomes somewhat hard to predict.”

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