New elections laws will be in place when voters go the polls to decide two school bond propositions from McAlester Public Schools and also elect a new councilman to fill the vacant Ward 1 McAlester City Council seat.

The laws went into effect in January, according to Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Cathy Thornton.

Five offenses are now considered felonies, according to election officials.

It is now considered a felony to swear a false oath on any election form or material in order to become eligible to vote or obtain a provisional ballot.

It is now also considered a felony:

• To knowingly remove a ballot from a polling place

• To knowingly carry a ballot into a polling place

• To knowingly cause the cancellation of a qualified elector’s voter registration

• To knowingly cause the collection or submission of voter registration application forms containing false, fraudulent or fictitious information.

As recently as the last election for the Ward 3 McAlester City Council seat, a number of voters later admitted voting in a precinct or ward in which they no longer resided.

Several voters said they continued voting in the same precinct even though they had moved out of it simply because they liked the precinct, the precinct workers or for other reasons.

Violations of the new laws can carry tough penalties.

“Any person deemed guilty of a felony shall, upon conviction, be confined to the state penitentiary for not more than five years, or fined not more than $50,000, or both,” according to election officials.

Meanwhile, voting by in-person absentee ballot started on Friday and will continue from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday at the Pittsburg County Election Board office at 109 E. Carl Albert Pkwy.

Regular polling places in the McAlester School District and in Ward 1 will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on election day.

Three items are on the ballot: two McAlester Public Schools propositions and the race for the Ward 1 city council seat.

Voters who reside in the  McAlester School District are eligible to vote in the school bond election, while voters who reside in Ward 1 can vote in the city council election.

In the school bond elections, McAlester Independent School District I-80’s Proposition 1 seeks passage of a $33,875,000 measure for capital improvements. School officials said that will include new classrooms and renovations, as well as renovations or improvements to athletic facilities and construction of a new events center, along with other improvements.

Proposition 2 is a $1 million transportation measure, which school officials said would be used to purchase new buses, as well as enhanced safety communications equipment.

In the Ward 1 race, Whit Davis and Weldon Smith are vying for the right to fill the Ward 1 seat left vacant by the resignation of Chris Fiedler, who said he stepped down from the post because of his plans to move to Kansas, where he now resides.

Smith, who is currently a board member of the McAlester Regional Health Care Center Authority, previously held the Ward 1 seat after being appointed to the post by his fellow city councilors when then-City Councilor Greg Rock resigned from the post.

Smith had completed Rock’s unexpired term, but did not seek election after the term expired.

Instead, Fiedler and Davis had vied for the post with Fielder barely edging Davis in a squeaker.

Davis did not seek a recount at the time, but when Fiedler resigned, he filed to run for the post again in the Tuesday election.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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