4,500 voters wind up in new districts - Updated ID cards being sent to those registered in county's went, southeast

Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat (OK) - Thursday, November 3, 2011
Author: D.E. Smoot, Phoenix Staff Writer The Muskogee Phoenix
— Muskogee County election officials are sending voter identification cards to more than 4,500 registered voters affected by legislative redistricting. 

Redistricting, mandated by law to take place every 10 years, divided the county, which used to be within one state Senate district, into parts of three districts. 

Muskogee County Election Board Secretary Ellen Thames said the redrawn boundaries of several state House districts also affects a number of voters. 

This year’s legislative redistricting will affect 4,515, or nearly 12 percent, of the county’s 39,121 registered voters. Voters in western and southeastern Muskogee County will be affected the most. 

Senate District 9, held by Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, used to encompass all of Muskogee County and southwestern Wagoner County. It now consists of the northeastern two-thirds of Muskogee County and southeastern Cherokee County. 

The new boundaries extend Senate District 18, represented by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, from east-central Cherokee County through most of Wagoner County and into the western third of Muskogee County. 

Senate District 8, held by Sen. Roger Ballenger, D-Okmulgee, now extends from Okfuskee County through Okmulgee and McIntosh counties into southeastern Muskogee County. 

“There are going to be some voters out there who are going to be upset with us,” Thames said. “But we didn’t have anything to do with these changes.” 

She urged the recipients of the new voter registration cards to keep them. The cards will be acceptable as proof of identification when voting. 

A new law that state voters approved last year requires voters to provide photo identification before they can cast ballots. The only exception, Thames said, is a voter registration card issued by a county election board. 

The voter identification law, which was approved by 74 percent of the voters, is considered by some to be an attack on those who typically support Democratic candidates. 

Former state Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Howe, said at a recent meeting of the Muskogee County Democratic Party that the law “amounts to a poll tax” because holders must pay for government-issued photo identification cards. 

Corn said the law has a disparate impact on the poor and elderly, especially those who don’t drive. 

Thames said the only no-cost alternative is an official voter registration card. 

Muskogee County voters who have misplaced or lost a registration card and won’t receive one of the 4,515 voter registration cards mailed this week can register for a new card. 

“People can come in and get a replacement,” Thames said. “We encourage them to do so — it will make it much easier for them to vote.” 

Derrick Reed, the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said voters can get new cards by registering — or re-registering — to vote at the Martin Luther King Center, 627 N. Third St.