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November 8, 2012

Provisional ballots key to race

NORMAN — Election board will meet Friday to certify results

Sixty-nine provisional ballots hold the key to the outcome of the State House District 45 race between incumbent Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, and Democratic challenger, Paula Roberts, also of Norman.

“That’s a high number of those provisionals to be counted,” said Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams.

Pending the outcome of the provisional ballots, that race could still swing to favor challenger Roberts. Were Roberts to triumph, it would be remarkable in the current climate of anti-Democrat sentiment and perhaps the only example in the politically red Sooner state of a Democrat unseating a Republican.

Stiles currently has an 18-vote margin of victory. He garnered a sliver more than 50 percent with a total of 6,786 votes to Roberts’ 6,768 votes.

On Tuesday night, two polling places in District 45 had “discrepancies” of a single vote, which triggered Williams to recount the ballots in those precincts.

“Any time there’s any discrepancy, we research it,” he said.

In this case, the problem seemed to be official error. The recount revealed the digital count of the ballots at both precincts was accurate. In one case, a printer malfunction on one of the polling machines meant a total was not printed, which confused the final count until a recount through a single machine was accomplished, and the vote was verified.

The votes and the voting process were never compromised, Williams said.

The Cleveland County Election Board staff is currently researching each of the provisional ballots. Provisional ballots cast by qualified registered voters will be tallied when the election board meets to certify the vote Friday afternoon.

“We plan to be there for that,” Roberts said. “We’re still hopeful.”

Williams said provisional ballots will not count if they were cast by non-registered voters.

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