About one in three provisional ballots cast in last week's general election in Oklahoma was found to be in order and was counted in the final, official count, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said Tuesday evening.
Members of the state Election Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve the Nov. 6 state and federal election results, except for the race involving state House District 45. Paula Roberts, a Democrat, who lost by 18 votes to Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, is seeking a recount. Roberts, of Norman, also has filed a petition claiming election irregularities occurred. A Cleveland County judge is scheduled to take up both matters Thursday.
The final election results approved Tuesday didn't change any election outcome.
Ziriax said 5,171 provisional ballots were cast, and 1,698, or 32.8 percent, were counted. The greatest percentage of those not counted, 3,061, or 88 percent, were because voters were not on the voting rolls in the precinct where they tried to cast a ballot.
Nearly 90 percent of the provisional ballots cast by voters without identification at the polls were counted, Ziriax said. Those without any identification cast 1,086 provisional ballots, and all but 124 were counted.
Provisional ballots are cast by voters without the required identification; they sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot, which, if it is determined they are registered to vote in that precinct, is included in the final election tally.
“It's a second chance for that voter,” Ziriax said. “It's a good thing.”
Ziriax said voting devices voters began using earlier this year performed well.
Some machines failed to print final tallies, which caused some county election officials to conduct another tally, which led to some delays in getting unofficial countywide counts.
The turnout for the general election was heavy, but didn't break a record, he said. Election results show about 1.33 million Oklahomans voted for president, which is shy of the 1.4 million who voted four years ago. The record number of ballots cast for president occurred in 2004 when 1.46 million Oklahomans voted.
Tuesday's turnout was about 63 percent of the state's 2.1 million registered voters, below the 67 percent recorded in 2008 and the 68 percent that voted in 2004, he said.
Another part of the delay in getting results posted last week was caused by election officials having to count a record number of mailed absentee ballots, Ziriax said. Current law provides that absentee ballots must be counted on Election Day, and election officials tabulate the absentee ballots before working on votes cast on Election Day. Ziriax said 63,945 Oklahomans mailed absentee ballots this year, compared with 62,784 in 2008.
Ziriax told board members that some voters complained about long lines, which are typical during presidential elections. Providing more voting booths at precincts would involve more precinct workers, who are difficult to get; the state authorizes counties to pay $87 to precinct workers and $97 to election inspectors, which is equal to minimum wage for 12 hours. But most poll workers stay 15 to 16 hours to finish the work.
“We have an aging population of precinct officials and not many younger people stepping up to fill those positions,” Ziriax said. “Long term, that's an issue that we're going to be dealing with, and that impacts everything from the length of the line to the technology that you can use at the precinct level.”
Ziriax also told board members that the Americans Elect party no longer met the requirement of being a recognized political party in Oklahoma. Organizers earlier this year succeeded in getting enough signatures of registered voters to have the party recognized, but then national party officials failed to nominate a presidential and vice presidential candidate.
The Oklahoma Americans Elect Party tried to get the Libertarian Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates listed as their candidates on the Oklahoma ballot, but the state Supreme Court ruled in September that the state group never was authorized to act on behalf of the national party.
National party officials notified the state Election Board in August that it was withdrawing its ballot line on the Nov. 6 ballot and was terminating its status as a qualified party in Oklahoma.
Latest voter registration figures show 18 Oklahomans registered as Americans Elect. Ziriax said their registration will be transferred to independent after the board formally takes action on the matter, which could be Friday when it could meet to certify the House District 45 election.