Conservatives recruit an army of volunteers as poll watchers in election-integrity push
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OKLAHOMA CITY – After weeks of hardening their positions on election security, the GOP and its allies in state legislatures have begun recruiting volunteers to watch the polls.
And the efforts might pay dividends – a more vigilant electorate could not only prevent a disaster like the one that unfolded two years ago, but could also increase turnout in 2018.
The most obvious signs of the push have come this week.
The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday announced it is moving forward with a bill that would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.
The Senate passed the bill on a 19-2 vote before being sent to the House for further debate.
Then on Thursday morning, the House sent Gov. Mary Fallin a bill that would bar convicted felons from having the right to vote.
“If these laws were passed, they’ll help,” said Kevin Matthews, research director for the Oklahoman. “But they won’t help if people want to vote as the law allows. There will be some pushback.”
Matthews is a poll watcher for the National Election Studies, a nonprofit group that follows elections nationwide. He said he has received requests from Republicans, Democrats and independents who are worried about voter fraud.
Democrats and election security advocates have been pushing to strengthen election systems for more than a decade, saying it is a key plank of their election-security agenda.
But for conservatives, the desire to defend elections has eclipsed any concerns about voter fraud.
“I think what we’re going to see, and we’re going to see in some states, not just the states that have taken these steps, but what we may see going forward in the election of 2018, is an increase in turnout, and that’s what people are looking for,” said Patrick Ruffini, who serves as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
The push for more voting booths
In a state where many voters don�