MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 18, 2012

Recount in UKB election rejected

Board upholds results in race for assistant chief

— The Keetoowah Band of Cherokees election board denied a request for a hand recount of votes in the recent runoff election for assistant chief.

Candidate Joe Bunch requested the recount after narrowly losing the Dec. 3 runoff to incumbent Charles Locust.

In the runoff, Locust received 483 votes, or 51.17 percent of 944 votes, and Bunch received 461 votes, or 48.83 percent. Bunch had maintained that votes cast in his name were incorrectly given to Locust and that an error incorrectly deducted one vote from Bunch’s tally.

The election board had a hearing Saturday and released its findings Monday evening.

The board ruled that Bunch failed to produce an error that shows “with a mathematical certainty” that the results were in error and that he failed to identify any error that “destroys the integrity of the election.”

The board’s order stated that it designated a third-party service, TrueBallot, to provide the ballots and other forms for the runoff and to supply the electronic vote- counting system for the runoff.

The order said TrueBallot’s optical scanning system showed 949 ballots cast, but five did not designate a choice for assistant chief and were therefore rejected. The order said TrueBallot conducted an automatic recount to verify the results, and that the recount results matched the initial results.

Bunch testified at Saturday’s hearing that he was present at the election headquarters for the initial count and the recount,  and that he conducted a hand tally of the ballots and receipts, according to the order.

Bunch had maintained that TrueBallot inverted the candidates’ names, so votes cast for Locust should have gone to Bunch.

The election board ruled that Bunch had failed to demonstrate TrueBallot’s results were incorrect. The board did not find any serious error in TrueBallot’s tally, according to the order.

Bunch also said at the hearing that the election ordinance did not provide for provisional ballots, the order stated. Provisional ballots are cast by people not on the voter registry.

The election board responded that TrueBallot employed a ballot on-demand system in which a ballot did not exist until a voter came to the poll and was authenticated.

“All eligible voters were listed in a database on a computer at the polling place,” the order said.

When a voter presented proper credentials, the ballot was generated by the computer. Votes were verified in public view by the TrueBallot optical counting system.

The board overruled Bunch’s allegation that it violated a requirement that it supervise the runoff following the same rules and procedures of the regular election. The board ruled that such a provision is not applicable to the contest.

The board also said Bunch failed to prove that voters received ballots without presenting proper photo tribal identification cards.

 Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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