By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Voters in the McCloud School District recently learned how important a single vote can be. A lone vote cast in a precinct in Cleveland County could have caused a school bond issue to fail, according to election board officials.
The ballot in question was cast as a provisional ballot because precinct officials were unable to find the voter’s name on the roll. When that happens, the voter fills out a provisional ballot, the voter registration is researched and, if legitimate, the vote counts.
In this case, a “no” vote could have affected the margin the initiative needed to pass, said Jim Williams, Cleveland County Election Board secretary.
The “yes” vote guaranteed the proposal’s success, and the bond passed by the required margin.
Even in a larger election, every vote can be important. Norman city leaders are hoping for a strong turnout in the upcoming Nov. 12 election, when Norman residents will consider an initiative to increase the city’s sewer rate.
In a press release issued this week, Williams said 51 precincts in Cleveland County are affected by special elections Nov. 12. In addition to Norman, the city of Lexington and Mustang Public Schools also have special elections on that date.
Friday is the last day to register to vote in any of the Nov. 12 elections, Williams said.
Oklahoma Voter Registration Application forms are available at the Cleveland County Election Board Office, 641 E. Robinson St. in Norman, and at all tag agencies, post offices and public libraries throughout the county.
· Norman ballot initiative — Norman voters will be asked to approve a wastewater rate increase Nov. 12 to help pay for $63 million in upgrades at the city’s southside sewer plant. If the proposed rate increase is approved, the average water user’s bill will go up about $3.74 a month. Average commercial rates will go up by $7.39 per month. Sewer rates have not risen since 1996.
If the city does not upgrade to meet Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality standards, Norman could face fines of $10,000 per day by the state. The city will borrow about $32 million for 15 years, according to the plan developed by the city.
The proposition includes an increase to the base rate and an increase to the commodity or use rate. Even if voters approve the rate increase, Norman’s wastewater cost will remain below average when compared to other Oklahoma municipalities.
The city’s current base rate is $3.90 per month. Voters will be asked to approve a $1.10 per month increase, raising the base rate from $3.90 to $5 monthly.
The city’s current commodity rate is $1.60 per 1,000 gallons of treated wastewater. Voters will be asked to increase the commodity rate by $1.10 per 1,000 gallons used. That will bring the commodity rate to $2.70 per 1,000 gallons used.
· Lexington ballot initiative — Lexington voters will consider an additional half percent sales tax to boost the city’s general fund. The current sales tax rate is 3.5 percent. If approved, the increase would bring the sales tax to 4 percent.
“All of the city’s around us are already at 4 percent,” Lexington City Manager Charlie McCown said. “We need to do something for economic development, which is extremely important for this town.”
· Mustang Public Schools — Mustang voters will consider two school bond propositions. If approved, Proposition 1 will allow the district to build a new JROTC Center for $1.4 million, an indoor baseball facility for $1.325 million and a new barn for FFA. Proposition 2 would provide buses, special need buses and vans.
· Absentee voting — Eligible voters can request a mail absentee ballot for any of the Nov. 12 elections. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for these elections is 5 p.m. Nov. 6. No reason is required for requesting an absentee ballot.
Williams said the Nov. 12 elections will be Cleveland County’s first election using the new statewide, in-person voting dates and times.
Early in-person voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Thursday and Friday prior to elections. Early voting will no longer take place on the Monday before Election Day.
Voter Registration Applications and Absentee Ballot Request Forms are available at clevelandcountyelectionboard.com.
For more information, call the Cleveland County Election Board at 366-0210.