Tulsa precinct workers overwhelmed by number, variety of ballots, official says

The Tulsa County Election Board received dozens of calls Tuesday morning regarding individuals who were either not given ballots for mayor or told they could not have one because they were Democrats or Republicans.

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Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant acknowledged Tuesday that some Tulsans may not have received ballots for the mayoral primary. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier
Tulsa County Election Board. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Dozens of Tulsans did not receive ballots for the mayor’s race Tuesday because precinct workers were confused and overwhelmed by the number and variety of races being contested, Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant said late Tuesday.

“There was too much for them to comprehend, too many variables in the equation,” Bryant said.

Tulsa County and city of Tulsa residents are voting on several issues Tuesday, with Democrats, Republicans and independents each receiving different ballots. The ballots include federal, state, county and city races, depending on where the voter lives.

More than 50 different ballots were used countywide Tuesday, Bryant said.

However, all city of Tulsa residents are eligible to vote in the nonpartisan municipal elections and should have been given a ballot for mayor when they showed up at their polling stations.

Five candidates are in the race for mayor, but the contest is expected to come down to incumbent Dewey Bartlett and City Councilor G.T. Bynum. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the ballot, the top two candidates will face off in the general election Nov. 8.

Bryant said she received about 50 calls  mostly from candidates and their campaign managers  Tuesday morning regarding individuals who were either not given ballots for mayor or told they could not have one because they were Democrats or Republicans.

The city’s municipal elections are nonpartisan, meaning Democrats, Republicans and independents can vote for any candidate.

“We don’t have enough precinct officials and the precinct officials we have can barely do a simple one (election),” Bryant said. “We’re adding too much stuff.”

Bryant said all precinct inspectors  who oversee the precincts on Election Day  were given verbal and written instructions regarding the races and ballots when they picked up their election packets Monday. Each inspector was required to sign an instruction form as well, Bryant said.

“They say they read it, they say they understand it, and then they go to the polls and are supposed to share it with the judge and clerk, and for whatever reason the voter comes in and they forget,” Bryant said.

The Election Board will know by the end of the night how many Tulsa voters did not receive a ballot for mayor. Bryant said the Election Board will compare the voter sign-in sheets to the number of ballots for mayor issued.

“So we can do some basic math and figure it out,” Bryant said.

Michael Junk, campaign manager for G.T. Bynum, said the campaign began getting calls about 9 a.m. from people who had been denied ballots or never given one.

“We immediately reported them to the Election Board both at the state level and here in Tulsa County,” Junk said. “It was 11 o’ clock when they said they had gotten it fixed. We don’t have any idea how widespread it is.”

Junk said the campaign has visited numerous polling places and “it’s no secret that turnout is down 20 percent from 2013 but I think the ballot is different than it was. There’s not a massive street package on there.”

Bryant said most of the calls about not receiving ballots for mayor came early in the day.

She responded by having her staff call every precinct and remind workers that all registered voters in Tulsa can vote in the mayor’s race.

Tulsa County has 262 voting precincts, including 176 in the city of Tulsa, which are manned by about 1,110 people, Bryant said. More than 203,000 registered voters were eligible to vote in the mayoral election, according to the Election Board.

A process is already in place to challenge Tuesday’s results, should a candidate choose to do so.

Bryant has scheduled an irregularity hearing for 9 a.m. July 6 in Tulsa County District Court Judge Rebecca Nightingale’s court.

“That is just a routine thing I do before every election,” Bryant said.

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