Oklahoma House Passes Bill To Hold State and Federal Elections Under Different Laws

UPDATE: On Friday, May 26,  the Oklahoma Legislature adjourned its 2023 legislative session without advancing House Bill 1415.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, March 8, the Oklahoma House passed House Bill 1415, a bill that would bifurcate the election administration of state and federal elections if Oklahoma officials and lawmakers disliked federal election law. H.B. 1415 passed the House 77 to 20 on a party line vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. The bill is likely to pass the Republican supermajority in the Senate, before heading to Gov. Kevin Stitt (R).

The Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution allows states to decide their own election policy, but grants ultimate authority to Congress to pass federal laws that supersede state laws. Last year, federal pro-voting legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate that would have created a minimum national standard for voter registration and access, with many policies much more expansive than current Oklahoma law.

H.B. 1415 would make “any federal law, regulation, order, or other official action that…seeks to substantially modify or supersede” any Oklahoma election policy “applicable only to elections for federal office.” The bill would empower the attorney general and secretary of the state election board to make a determination on whether a federal policy substantially modifies or supersedes state policy and creates a committee of state officials to propose policy recommendations on how to implement bifurcated elections.

The effect of this bill would be to hold state and federal elections under a different set of laws, which, depending on the scope of federal laws, could be a logistical near-impossibility. “Conducting concurrent federal and state elections under a common set of rules is vastly more efficient and cost-effective, and far less prone to error and confusion,” a group of election administrators wrote in an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court last fall in a pending election law case. Arizona has a bifurcated state and federal voter registration system, which has led to confusion and litigation. Otherwise, all 50 states currently hold state and federal elections under the same set of rules.

Read H.B. 1415 here.

Track the status of H.B. 1415 here.