Delays mar start, finish of ballot-counting in Tulsa County
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 08, 2012
11/08/12 at 4:13 AM
The Tulsa County Election Board did not finish counting ballots from Tuesday's election until 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, Election Board officials said.
The vote count was marred by delays at the beginning and the end of the process.
Shelly Boggs, assistant Election Board secretary, said the board could not begin reporting results for nearly two hours after polls closed at 7 p.m. because it was working to complete official ballots for hundreds of military personnel and overseas voters.
"We had the 12,000 (absentee ballots) pretty much scanned by 7:30," Boggs said. "But we couldn't post anything because it wasn't completed because the board was still remaking the ballots" from the overseas and military voters.
At the end of the process, the count was delayed an additional 1 1/2 hours by mechanical glitches in 11 machines.
Boggs said 26,378 absentee ballots were cast, including 13,802 voters who took part in the early voting process.
The law stipulates that the affidavits accompanying returned absentee ballots cannot be opened and verified prior to the Thursday before the election and cannot be tabulated until Election Day.
The ballot envelopes themselves cannot be opened and scanned until Election Day, Boggs said.
In Tulsa County, that meant opening and scanning 12,576 absentee ballots Tuesday, a process that began early in the morning.
"We were at it all day long," Boggs said. "It wasn't like we are over here twiddling our thumbs."
The Election Board emails ballots to military personnel and county residents living overseas, who then print them out before returning them by fax or mail, as required by law. In either case, the Election Board - including representatives of the Republican and Democrat parties - must then create an official ballot that can be run through the voting machines.
Boggs said Election Board received a total of 516 overseas absentee ballots and that many of them arrived Monday and Tuesday.
The state Election Board recommends that absentee ballots be tabulated first before ballots from local precincts can be counted - a procedure the Tulsa County Election Board followed as usual on Tuesday.
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said the procedure is recommended to accommodate the 75 counties where absentee and early votes are reported by precinct.
But in the state's two largest counties, Tulsa and Oklahoma, absentee ballots are designated a separate precinct and could be tabulated at any time during the county process, Ziriax said.
"I think that is something we should look at," Ziriax said. "We always want to learn from our experience."
Ziriax said he also plans to speak with members of the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin about giving election boards more than Election Day to count their mailed absentee ballots.
I want "to see if we can come up with more flexibility for the county election offices so it doesn't bog them down," Ziriax said. "In my opinion, the voting by mail is only going to continue to grow."
Tuesday's presidential election turnout in Tulsa County was 227,541, about 30,000 less than the 2008 turnout.
Tulsa County had 346,849 residents registered to vote in Tuesday's election.
Original Print Headline: Glitches delay start, finish of vote count
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313