The Norman Transcript

November 17, 2012

Counting ballots: Human vs machine

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — State Election Board officials said there is no evidence of missing ballots in the State House District 45 race in east Norman.

Concerns expressed Thursday night by attorney Greg Bledsoe following the recount of the District 45 election indicated Bledsoe thought ballots might be missing, but that is unlikely, election board officials said Friday.

Bledsoe cited eight votes in various precincts that candidates had not received after the recount.

He had asked the election board staff to check the voting machines and boxes and was assured that had already occurred.

Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams said they had checked the boxes, checked the machines, got down on their hands and knees to check and also shook the bins.

In precinct 30, Stiles received two less votes than the machines had recorded; in precinct 32, Roberts was down two votes from the machine count; and in precinct 82, Roberts was down one vote and Stiles was down two votes from the machine count. Those votes would have increased Stiles’ margin of victory to 17 if they had been included in the recount.

Missing votes don’t equate to missing ballots, however.

“Sometimes, when there is a hand count, people see something a little differently than the scanner counts it,” said Oklahoma Election Board Assistant Secretary Fran Roach. “I don’t know of any missing ballots.”

In a hand count, undervotes and overvotes are not recorded.

The loss of votes that Bledsoe was concerned about is common in a hand recount, Roach said.

Bledsoe is representing Democratic candidate Paula Roberts, a former longtime secretary of the election board. He has filed allegations of irregularities in the election and is asking that it be thrown out and a new election ordered. Earlier this year, Bledsoe represented Democrat Dan Arthrell in a recount where lost ballots which had been stuck in the machines caused the ballots not to be included in the manual recount.

That didn’t happen in Cleveland County, officials said.

Robert McCampbell is the attorney for incumbent Republican Aaron Stiles who is still the unofficial winner of the District 45 race.

“There were eight ballots on which there were challenges,” McCampbell said, of Tuesday’s recount.

Three of those were objections by Stiles and five were objections by Roberts. In most of the cases, a very small mark in one opponent’s box and a very clearly marked box for the other candidate was ruled an “overvote” or illegal vote for both candidates and not added to the tally.

It is likely that the “missing” votes were similar cases to those challenged by the attorneys but were not caught and challenged.

Following the Nov. 6 election, Stiles was the unofficial winner by 18 votes. After the recount, he still holds the lead by 16 votes.

While initially, the judge believed the results would be certified, Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams said those results were reported to the state, but would not be certified until after the irregularities hearing.

“All we really did last night was obtain a new set of unofficial results,” Williams said.

Williams said some of the totals did change slightly with the recount.

“We are now using a brand new system,” Williams said. “My experience is that they’re more sensitive in picking up marks.”

Williams and his staff continue to research the statistics from the voting process.

“I still have complete confidence in these new machines,” he said.

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

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