NORMAN — Cleveland County voters turned out in strong numbers for this year’s presidential election. With multiple local races and six state questions in addition to the District 4 congressional race and the presidential election, voters were anything but apathetic in expressing their opinions at the polls.
An unusually large number of absentee votes clogged the reporting system because of the amount of work election board employees had to do by hand to make sure each and every one of those about 5,000 votes got counted.
Despite that, the long lines gave evidence to strong voter interest this election year.
“It was a good turnout,” Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams said before dashing off to continue counting ballots.
The trend of high voter interest was evident in early voting numbers. There were 2,548 early voters Monday, for a total of 6,129 early voters for all three days, which was about 300 more than voted early four years ago, according to Williams.
The election board processed 6,511 requests for absentee ballots. Williams estimated that about 5,000 of those were returned to the election board by the 7 p.m. deadline Tuesday. Of the requested absentee ballots, 752 ballots were sent to overseas and uniformed voters.
Williams said that the automatic letter opener was cutting ballots, which meant election workers had to stop using the machine and open envelopes by hand, which slowed the process down. The military ballots had to be filled in on actual ballots by election workers then run through the voting machines.
In addition, some precincts lines were so long, people were still voting long after polls closed. Anyone in line by 7 p.m. was allowed to vote.