By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Dozens of volunteers and Cleveland County Election Board employees spent more than 10 hours tediously recounting by hand ballots cast in the State House District 45 election.
In the end, the recount narrowed the lead of Republican Aaron Stiles by only two votes.
Around 9:30 p.m., Stiles was certified by the Cleveland County Election Board with a 16-vote victory. Prior to the recount, Stiles had unofficially won by an 18-vote margin over Democratic challenger Paula Roberts.
The vote total was Roberts with 6,787 votes and Stiles with 6,803 votes.
However, the battle isn’t over. Judge Tracy Schumacher will hear arguments from Roberts’ attorney, Greg Bledsoe, regarding alleged irregularities at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Bledsoe will argue that these irregularities are cause for a new election.
The daylong recount process involved six tables with teams of four people at each table counting the ballots by hand. A caller read the ballot and called out the vote. The stacker took the ballot and confirmed the caller’s announcement. The stacker and the caller were of opposite political parties.
Two people at each table tallied the votes as they were called out. They also were of opposing political parties, so each party had equal and fair representation at each counting table.
In addition, both candidates had watchers present throughout the day stationed at each table.
Election board guidelines were strictly adhered to, and attorneys for both parties were allowed to challenge election board decisions.
“There were eight ballots on which there were challenges,” Stiles’ attorney Robert McCampbell said.
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.
In addition, there were eight fewer ballots accounted for in the hand count than the machines had recorded on election night.
Bledsoe was troubled by this and asked if election officials had checked the machines and the boxes for ballots.
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.
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