The Norman Transcript

December 1, 2012

Judge to rule Tuesday on House District 45 election

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Arguments concluded Friday in Democratic candidate Paula Roberts’ hearing alleging election irregularities in the House District 45 race.

District Judge Tracy Schumacher heard arguments at Cleveland County Courthouse and said she would issue a ruling at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“I feel good, we got all of our information out there today,” Roberts said Friday afternoon after more than four hours of testimony and evidence produced by her legal team.

State Rep. Aaron Stiles, the House District 45 Republican incumbent, was found to have a 16-vote lead after the official recount earlier this month.

Friday was the second day of the testimony and evidence hearing. The hearing started on Nov. 20.

The petition is an attempt by Roberts to prove a mathematical uncertainty that would void the election and serve as cause for the judge to order a new election for the east Norman district.

Stiles has maintained that Roberts is trying to win the election through litigation and that her counselors have been on a “fishing expedition” looking for cause to vacate the Nov. 6 election.

“We’re concentrating on facts,” said attorney Barry Roberts who is also Paula Roberts’ husband. “We’re looking at people who voted in House District 45.”

The first action introduced on Friday morning were additional changes to the petition.

“This morning a third amended petition was filed,” Roberts’ attorney, Greg Bledsoe, told Schumacher.

While the scope of the allegations were narrowed in the new petition, the primary challenges to the absentee voter and voter ID processes and procedures were called into question.

Bledsoe also subpoenaed 14 people who did not change their voter registrations after moving but voted at their previous precincts. Judge Schumacher expressed concern that those people could be incriminating themselves if they testified.

Assistant Election Board Secretary Annette Pretty also returned to the stand on Friday. Pretty had been called to the stand earlier in the case regarding election procedures.

Pretty was questioned about the absentee ballots cast by Jamie and Danny Jennings. In her testimony on Nov. 20, Jamie Jennings said she and her husband live in House District 44 and that she believes they were sent the wrong ballots.

Danny Jennings was looked up in the system and Pretty walked the court through the process.

Pretty said it has happened in the past that voters have gotten the wrong absentee ballots because of human error. Pretty has worked at the Cleveland County Election Board full time since 1999, when Paula Roberts was election board secretary.

“Usually they call and tell us if they realize they’ve gotten the wrong ballot,” Pretty said.

Bledsoe asked what voters are told if they call about voting at a previous polling place.

“I was taught when I first started working at the election board that a voter could return to their precinct where they were voting previously and they could vote once,” Pretty said.

She said voters should also be told to change their voter registration at that time to reflect the address change.

Pretty said voting officials are not trained to look at the voter address on ID.

“We do not look at the address, just the ID photo and expiration date,” Pretty said.

Bledsoe questioned Pretty on the “Secretary’s Digest.”

“It’s our bible,” Pretty said and described the document as a guideline to election procedures and state election laws.

One of Bledsoe’s allegations regarded notaries who had notarized absentee ballots. He produced evidence that some notaries had let their certifications expire. He also presented other miner clerical discrepancies on the affidavits.

In those cases, it is unknown who those persons voted for in the election or if they voted for either candidate in House District 45.

At one point in the proceedings, Bledsoe asked that the judge disqualify herself on the basis that she had violated their civil rights. Attorneys argued their various viewpoints in sidebar without making the details public.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Dillingham represented the Cleveland County Election Board and Robert McCampbell represented Stiles.

McCampbell said the request should have come before the hearing started, not after it was underway. He said if Roberts’ attorneys did not like the way the judge was ruling, that was not cause to ask the judge to recuse that far into the hearing.

Schumacher declined to disqualify herself.

Asked whether Roberts’ team of attorneys is building a case for the Oklahoma Supreme Court, attorney Barry Roberts said a good lawyer always looks at the broader issues, but that is not the driving force in this case.

 

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

 

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