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Guest Opinion

During this COVID-19 emergency, we are all doing our best to self-distance, avoid getting sick, and slow the spread of this terrible virus. At Cherokee Nation, we are slowly reopening businesses and governmental offices while still utilizing telework principles to keep everyone safe to accomplish the essential work of our tribal government.

I hope you will join me in bringing that same approach to the important decisions we have before us as voters in the great state of Oklahoma. On June 30, the state will hold elections to decide many state and federal primaries, as well as voting on State Question 802 to make sure that Oklahomans are able to get health care.

Hoskin Closeup Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

Making our voices heard on the ballot is critical work. With government leaders at all levels making life-and-death decisions about how to respond to COVID-19, and with State Question 802 potentially bringing home billions in federal tax dollars to care for Oklahomans, this election will be one of the most important we have seen.

To accomplish the essential work of voting while keeping safe, our best option may be to request an absentee ballot to vote by mail. The deadline to request an absentee ballot has passed, but for those who have already requested one, the state has provided additional options to vote absentee during the health emergency. Instead of getting your ballot notarized, you can mail it with a photocopy of your photo ID. A copy of your Cherokee Nation photo ID will work for this purpose. If you do not have access to a photocopier, you can even mail in your voter ID card and then request a new one from the State Election Board.

While the photocopy option is temporary during the state of emergency, state lawmakers should consider making it permanent, along with other ways that make voting easier for Oklahomans. The state could extend the time for early voting or raise the cap on the number of ballots allowed per notary. I hope our state will consider these and any other measures that make it easier for Oklahomans to exercise their right to vote without ever putting their health at risk.

If you are not in one of the most at-risk groups for COVID-19, you may be able to help by working at a polling place. In the past, many of our polling place workers have been elders who need to take extra precautions right now and may not be able to help. As a result, poll workers are in high demand. You can check with your local county election board to find out how to help.

No matter how you decide to vote in the June 30 election, I urge everyone to stay respectful, keep our distance from each other, wear masks, and wash our hands before and afterwards. With the right precautions, we can make sure that this virus does not prevent anyone’s essential right to participate in our democracy.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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