NORMAN — A petition seeking a recount, along with allegations of irregularities in the House District 45 race, were filed Friday by the Democratic challenger.
Meanwhile, Cleveland County election officials determined no change occurred in the Republican incumbent's margin of victory after tabulating ballots not counted in Tuesday's election.
After counting absentee ballots that were discovered Thursday night and 24 of about 70 provisional ballots that were cast Tuesday, election board officials determined unofficial final results showed Rep. Aaron Stiles still won by 18 votes.
Paula Roberts listed 10 allegations in papers filed with the state Election Board claiming that ineligible voters cast ballots in her race and registered voters in the Norman district were not allowed to vote.
Roberts, who served 22 years as Cleveland County Election Board secretary before retiring last year, also said absentee ballots were not counted when they should have been, including 60 that were discovered Thursday.
Roberts, of Norman, also wants a manual recount of all the votes cast in house District 45's 11 precincts, as well as all the provisional and absentee ballots.
“I feel like with all the issues we've had in this race, including problems with new equipment and new software, and the uncounted absentee ballots, that we owe it to the voters to have a recount,” Roberts said.
According to the unofficial results, Stiles, R-Norman, won 50.1 percent of the vote. With all 11 precincts, the absentee and provisional ballots, Stiles, who was elected to the House in 2010, won by 18 votes out of 13,580 cast.
Friday's count put the tally at Stiles receiving 6,799 votes and Roberts getting 6,781.
Provisional ballots are cast by voters without the required identification at the polls. Voters sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot, which is included in the final election tally only if it is determined they are registered to vote in that precinct.
Barry Roberts, an attorney and Paula Roberts' husband, filed the recount request and petition alleging voting irregularities with state election officials at the state Capitol shortly before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline.
“We watched processes in the Cleveland County Election Board, made notes and … identified some things we think need to be looked at more carefully,” he said.
Roberts said his wife, because of her experience at the Cleveland County Election Board, “has knowledge of most of the procedures that should be followed.”
A hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Thursday before Cleveland County District Judge Tracy Schumacher, who will take up both the recount and election irregularity matters. She could order a new House District 45 election if she finds voting irregularities occurred, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.
Paula Roberts paid a $2,100 deposit to cover the cost of the recount. She may stop the recount if she is ahead after any precinct. Stiles then has the option to pay a similar amount to have the recount continue until all precincts are counted.
His attorney, Robert McCampbell, said it was “too speculative and hypothetical” on whether Stiles is prepared to pay to keep the recount going.
Paula Roberts said equipment problems plagued election workers Tuesday and slowed a count of provisional ballots and the overlooked absentee ballots Friday.
“We had hoped to have this resolved Friday afternoon, but because of equipment problems, the provisional ballots were still being counted at 5 p.m.,” she said.
Stiles said he was relieved at Friday's outcome, “except, technically, it still is not over. Now they've asked for a recount.”
History indicates that recounts never change an election outcome by more than about three votes, he said.
County election board officials began Friday's proceedings by authorizing a count of 60 absentee ballots discovered Thursday night as workers were preparing boxes for storage.
Jim Williams, executive secretary of the Cleveland County Election Board, said absentee ballots usually are opened by an automated letter opener, but on Tuesday workers saw that the automated opener was slicing ballots.
“So we assembled a team and opened them by hand,” Williams said.
In the process, 60 mail-in absentee ballots in a sealed envelope inadvertently got mixed in with empty envelopes and put into a box for storage, he said.
“This is a very unfortunate accident,” Williams said. “It's embarrassing to us, both professionally and personally. The ballots are secure. There's no doubt in my mind they are eligible ballots that should be counted.”
About 25 onlookers waited for two hours while election board officials fed first absentee ballots and then provisional ballots into a machine for a final tally. The process was slowed by ongoing problems with the scanning machine.
“When it was finished, when all was said and done,” Stiles said, “nothing changed.”