After seeing elections postponed in April for the first time in many decades due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan County Election Board Secretary Kimberly Norris sees things returning to close to normal for the June 30 primary election.
Although there are a hefty number of items on the June ticket because of the earlier postponement, she expects things to roll smoothly even with a few additional changes, including a brand new pen for each voter to use during the voting process.
Norris ordered an additional 14,000 pens to ensure that is the case, although voters do not have to keep the pen provided.
Also, "Our voting site officials will wear masks or face shields, and we would like voters to as well but can’t require them to do so," she said. "Lines may be a little longer due to the number of things on the ballots, but we’ll just have to see how the turnout is next week.
"We had not had an election emergency with postponed ?? in many, many years. It’s the first time anyone could recall that happening and some have worked here close to 30 years."
While things at the voting booth will remain fairly status quo, some people will be required to vote in an unfamiliar location.
Precinct 8 at the Bryan County Health Department was forced to move a block away to the Durant Intermediate School gymnasium because of continued COVID-19 testing.
"If this continues through the November election, we don’t know where we will hold it yet," Norris admitted.
According to Norris, voter registration has been about normal during this cycle, even though the election board office was closed to the public for two months.
One thing that has increased is absentee voting, with 371 registered voters requesting those ballots as opposed to 250 at this time in 2016.
There has been a slight change in the absentee voting deadline as it was moved up a day from the Wednesday before the election to the Tuesday prior, on June 23.
The state of Oklahoma has also revised emergency procedures for absentee balloting so that voters can include a copy of their driver’s license and voter identification card rather than having it notarized.
Early voting will take place June 25 and June 26 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and June 27 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Election Board offices located at the Bryan County Courthouse, 402 W. Evergreen St., in Durant.
"The only thing really different in this election is that everybody must come in through courthouse east door and come through security before they can vote," Norris added. "Everything else is the same, although we are doing social distancing as much as we can.
"We have had to do training completely different this year for precinct officials. Normally, it’s a two-day training and the majority have done it online while a few others have come in two or three at a time," she said.
"We also have a few regular workers not working this election because they are worried about the virus. That’s made it a little more difficult, but not much. We have a few new trainees, but most have all worked an election before."
Norris knows it’s tough to say what kind of voter turnout to expect, but can only look back on past years for an idea.
"If you go back historically in presidential (election) years, you don’t usually have a big turnout in the primary," she said. "We did two years ago during the gubernatorial year, but we had the marijuana issue that brought out people in droves.
"The sheriff’s election is the hot ticket right now if you look at social media. We don’t have anything to do with it, but they haven’t been able to hold the normal debates or (candidate) forum" leading up to the election.
In the Bryan County Sheriff race, incumbent Johnny Christian faces a stiff challenge from two fellow republican nominees.
One challenger, Steve Nabors, is a 41-year law enforcement veteran, former deputy and long-time Oklahoma Highway Patrolman.
The other is Charles "Butch" Boucher, who has been in law enforcement for 26 years and is a former deputy in the Sheriff’s office.
State and congressional offices on the ballot include Corporation Commissioner, U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative.
Voters will also decide on State Question Number 802, which would expand Medicaid coverage.
School board positions are up for grabs in Achille as well as Rock Creek. Bokchito voters will decide whether their town clerk will serve on the board of trustees, and Achille voters will decide on a 1 percent sales tax increase.
Bryan County Voting Precincts
#3 – Durant School Superintendent Office, 1323 W. Waco St.
#4 – First Baptist Church, 124 W. Evergreen St., Durant
#5 – Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 1524 W. Main St., Durant
#8 – Durant Intermediate School Gym, 1314 Waco St. (moved from Bryan County Health Dept office)
#10 – Achille City Hall, 211 W. Main St.
#11 – Wade-Albany Senior Center, 107 Wade St.
#13 – Bennington City Hall, 345 N. Perry St.
#14 – Blue Baptist Church, Highway 70
#15 – Bokchito First Baptist Church, 202 N.Edens St.
#17 – Rock Community Building, 205 Buffalo St., Caddo
#18 – Calera United Methodist Church, 111 S. McKinley Ave.
#19 – Kiamichi Technology Center
#20 – Cartwright First Baptist Church, 187 Willafa Woods Road
#21 – Cobb Community Building
#22 – Coleman Avenue Church of Christ, 212 W. Coleman Ave., Colbert
#23 – Kemp Community Building
#25 – Mead Baptist Church, 321 S. N. Church St.
#26 – Victory Tabernacle Education Building, 702 East Hwy 70
#27 – Seventh Day Adventist Church, 225 Sunny Meadows Drive, Durant
#28 – Silo High School gym, 122 W. Bourne St.
#29 – Utica Community Center, 144 School St., Bokchito
#33 – Faith Lutheran Church, 3802 N. Washington Ave., Durant