Potential issue regarding March 1 primary has election officials concerned

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From left, John Fitzpatrick, Tom Helm, Brandon Hendrix, Jason Jackson, Dan Miller, Randy Pierce, Vic Regalado, and Luke Sherman. LUKE OPPENHEIMER/For the Frontier

When Gov. Mary Fallin’s office set the primary date for the Tulsa County Sheriff special election for March 1, election officials here were excited.

Countywide elections can cost more than $100,000 to conduct, but since the March 1 date coincided with the already-scheduled presidential primary, everyone saved a lot of time and money.

But a potential issue is lurking.

Tulsa County has 44,798 registered independent voters — and independents can request to vote in Democratic primaries (but not Republican primaries.) That’s good news for those people looking to pick between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on March 1.

But there’s only one democrat — Rex Berry — running for sheriff, so Tulsa County independents will have to watch from the sidelines as voters choose that day between the nine republicans seeking to be sheriff.

sheriff election dates

But that might not stop them from trying. Election officials here are concerned independent voters may request a Republican ballot, and it’s possible — in theory — that they could mistakenly be granted one.

What problem might this cause? With voters selecting from nine Republican candidates, the winning margin is bound to be slim (some of the individual campaigns have told me they expect less than 100,000 votes to be cast.)

And, as we saw in December when the candidacies of four candidates were challenged (three of whom ultimately were removed from the race,) these guys aren’t afraid to use the legal maneuvering available to them.

Voting locations for all Tulsa County precincts

Which brings us to another potential issue. The Republican primary is a winner-take-all format, and the victor — whoever he is — will immediately move on to face Democrat Rex Berry in the April 5 general election.

If the results of the primary are challenged in some manner, it leaves just a little more than 30 days to get it sorted out.

The last 10 months have been a wild ride as it pertains to the sheriff’s office, and the next two months might not be any calmer.

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