MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 9, 2012

Uncounted ballots discovered in close race


Associated Press

— NORMAN (AP) – A judge in Cleveland County will oversee a recount in a tight race for an Oklahoma House seat in which early results show the Republican incumbent won by just 18 votes.

Cleveland County District Judge Tracy Schumacher also is scheduled to conduct a hearing on a petition filed by Democratic challenger Paula Roberts that there were sufficient irregularities related to the election that make it “impossible to determine with mathematical certainty which candidate is entitled to a certificate of election.”

Roberts is seeking the House District 45 seat in east Norman that’s currently held by Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles.

Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams confirmed Friday that a box containing 60 uncounted mail-in absentee ballots was discovered in the office Thursday, two days after Tuesday’s general election.

“It’s a very embarrassing mistake,” Williams said.

Williams said the 60 absentee ballots apparently were mistakenly put in a box with discarded envelopes on election night while election workers were opening envelopes of absentee ballots.

“There’s a lot of moving parts, and so much of it is in the hands of volunteers and helpers, but ultimately it is my responsibility,” Williams said.

Williams said the district attorney’s office has said the ballots can be counted, and that he’s confident the outcome of the House race can be determined with “mathematical certainty.”

But Roberts alleges ten separate irregularities in the election, including ineligible voters, unsecured absentee ballots and improperly counted provisional ballots.

Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said if the judge determines enough irregularities existed, the court could order a new election.

A hearing on the petition and the recount both are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in Cleveland County District Court.