Precinct workers in Tulsa County mistakenly allowed two people to each vote twice, resulting in the contested and missing ballots in the House District 71 race, a state Election Board investigation found.
The investigation results were presented to the state Election Board Tuesday night at the state Capitol. Democrat Dan Arthrell defeated Republican Katie Henke by a single vote.
However, the election results already have been nullified by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and the candidate to hold the state House Seat representing Tulsa will be determined in the November elections.
“We certainly don't want to see things like this happen,” Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. “But we've certainly learned a lot.”
Oklahoma implemented a new election system at the beginning of 2012 that still uses paper ballots but has new scanning devices and a website that displays results for all 77 counties, almost in real time.
In the elections since the machines were first implemented there has been the botched recount in April, and in last week's primary elections, a software glitch resulted in inaccurate election results being posted online for about 90 minutes.
Ziriax said they made a number of changes in response to the issues, and that he would give the primary elections a solid “B.”
“Overall I think that the training, the hardware upgrades and the fact that our people now are just much more experienced with the system, led to the primary election being our smoothest election yet,” Ziriax said. “The problem is we are an A+ agency and while a ‘B' is good, the state Election Board wants excellent,” Ziriax said.
He outlined a number of measures they are taking to ensure these problems don't recur, including the announcement that in the August runoff election the state would not use the website that had the software glitch, resulting in wrong results to be posted online for 90 minutes.
Rather, Ziriax said they will go back to the old system, which is has been more accurate, but not as visually appealing to online users.
In April, Democrat Arthrell defeated Republican Henke by 3 votes, winning the Tulsa County seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Henke called for a recount, which resulted in Henke winning by one vote. It was later released that there were four missing ballots in the recount, which explained the discrepancy between election night results and recount results. Two ballots for Arthrell were found stuck inside a ballot box, but the other two ballots remained unaccounted for.
On appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to declare a winner and nullified the election results.
The report given Tuesday night to the Oklahoma State Election Board accounted for the two ballots that were unaccounted for.
In two Tulsa County precincts there was a paper jam or some other sort of malfunction that resulted in a voter getting the ballot back after it had already been counted or scanned, Ziriax said.
Ziriax said that when precinct workers attempted to rescan the ballots, they got a nondescript error code, meaning the ballot had already been cast and should be put in the ballot box. However, the precinct workers didn't know what the error message meant and instead destroyed the ballots and gave voters fresh ballots allowing their votes to be cast or scanned twice.