NORMAN — The runoff election for Norman’s Ward 6 city council seat may be rescheduled for June 30 amid concerns of a local coronavirus outbreak.
The election between Ward 6 Councilman Bill Scanlon and his opponent Elizabeth Foreman is scheduled for April 7.
City council members expressed their concern, saying the population most at risk are older residents who operate polling precincts. During its special session Monday to discuss the city’s response to COVID-19, Mayor Breea Clark asked staff to consider rescheduling the election.
Foreman said she regrets there would be no time to receive training offered to newly elected officials before taking office in July if the election were moved to June 30, but she realizes the danger.
“COVID19 is a force that will stamp an interesting place in time, and since it is so contagious and dangerous for those at risk, it would be a good call to postpone the election,” she said in an email to The Transcript. “Municipal elections have such a low turnout anyway, I’m sure my opponent would agree that we would want as many voters to be able to have their votes count and not be compromised — or compromise the at-risk poll workers — in doing so. So, we’ll see what the council says and will plan accordingly.”
Scanlon said he hit the ground running without any training because he accepted an appointed position by a search committee. Having the election sooner than later would be “selfish,” he said, because “it prolongs this agony,” but he would accept the decision to move the election to June.
City council members will be required to reschedule the election, but no decision has been made. The council could make that decision at next Tuesday’s meeting.
• Election complications: The city’s decision to reschedule the election may have little impact on poll workers who will have to staff a statutorily mandated board of education seat. Norman’s Board of Education Office No. 5 is up for election April 7. State election officials said city council races are not mandated by state law.
“The April 7 school board elections are required by statute, and there is no provision in the law for a statutory election to be canceled or postponed,” State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said in an email Tuesday. However, special elections such as school propositions, city council races and municipal propositions can be canceled and rescheduled, “if requested by the entity,” Ziriax said.
“The governing bodies for entities that have called optional special elections for that date could choose to rescind their election resolutions and schedule the election for a different date,” Ziriax said.
Norman City Clerk Brenda Hall said cities base municipal elections on their charters.
City Attorney Kathryn Walker said the charter provisions comply with state election law and “ensure consistent timing of elections.”
“However, given the state of emergency and the unique circumstances we find ourselves in, I think the council could amend the resolution adopted last November to set a new date for the Ward 6 runoff,” she said. “It is important that the rescheduled election occur before the date on which the next term would begin in July so we are not altering term lengths.”
Workers will be ready to tackle the risk, Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Bryant Rains said.
“We’re getting hand sanitizers, masks, wipes,” Rains said. “Not allowing more than 10 people in the polling place, and that includes the three workers.”
State Election Board officials spoke to all 77 county election boards Monday about precautions poll workers will take. Ziriax said his agency continues “to monitor the situation” and is developing protocols from recommendations by the state health department.
Rains said voters can limit the exposure of poll workers and themselves if they will vote by absentee ballots.
“Voting by mail absentee is the best way,” Rains said. “Anyone can vote absentee by mail. Go to the state election board, request the absentee ballot, and we will send them. The deadline to request it is the Wednesday before the election. That would be April 1 at 5 p.m.”
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