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Oklahoma precinct worker opens home to displaced voters

Ann Tubbs, 71, has been working elections in Oklahoma's Comanche County for almost three decades, but Tuesday was the first time she was able to watch TV on her living room set during lulls in voting.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: February 13, 2013
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Tubbs has been working elections in Comanche County for 29 years, most recently as inspector for Precinct 33. She also volunteers at a local hospital.

Tuesday's election day was the most interesting one she's experienced, she said, and not because of the voting. With snow falling outside, she and the precinct's election judge, Doris Recer-Ensley, watched television during the long lulls in voting.

“I had recorded Hallmark Christmas movies and we watched those all day,” Tubbs said.

The living room precinct in Lawton on Tuesday was not the only one in the state, but it's certainly a tradition that has gone by the wayside in past decades, said Paul Ziriax, secretary of the state Election Board.

The board does not track polling places by “type,” but Ziriax said he is aware of at least one other, in Kingfisher County.

“They tend to be in more rural precincts where there are no private businesses or churches or schools that are willing to allow their location to be used for a precinct or a polling place,” he said.

Phased out in the '70s

Lee Slater, the state's Election Board secretary from 1971-88, said most living room precincts were phased out during the 1970s as election officials looked to centralize polling places in public buildings.

In 1981, he said, the board consolidated some of the smaller precincts, reducing the total number from 3,000 to about 2,000.

“They were phased out, among other reasons, because people don't like folks like you and me tromping through their house with muddy feet, cussing and screaming,” said Slater, currently the executive director for the state Ethics Commission. “It's a big sacrifice to turn over your house. I don't want to use my house for a polling place.”

Baughman said the last living room polling site in Comanche County closed about 16 years ago. She said her office did not receive any complaints Tuesday about the sudden site relocation at Precinct 33.