Donald Trump is claiming this year’s presidential election is rigged. Rigged by the media. Rigged, even, at the polling stations.

Trump is also urging his supporters to monitor the polls Nov. 8 to make sure nothing under-handed occurs. According to The Atlantic, Trump said this two weeks ago during a rally in Novi, Mich.: “Go to your place and vote, and then go pick some other place, and go sit there with your friends and make sure it’s on the up-and-up.”

It’s been that kind of year. And it’s not just The Donald slinging menacing accusations of voter interference.  The Obama administration recently took the bold step of publicly accusing the Russian government of attempting to meddle in United States elections.

The statement, issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, came days after the online news website Politico reported that 25 states have reached out to the federal government seeking help in preventing hackers from disrupting their voting systems.

Oklahoma was not one of those states.

However, Bryan Dean, public information officer for the Oklahoma State Election Board, said officials there have spoken separately with the FBI and the Bureau of Homeland Security to discuss security precautions.

“They (the FBI) just kind of went over our systems and how they work, and they confirmed that it sounds like we are doing everything we can to make everything secure,” Dean said.

The state’s election system has not had “any sort of intrusion attempts or hacking attempts on any of our systems so far, and we’re not aware of any sort of specific threats,” Dean added.

Oklahoma’s voting system, overhauled in 2012, is one of the most modern in the nation, but its vote-tabulation system is purposely off-line.

In fact, “ballots will not scan on a (voting) machine if (the USB with results) is plugged where the file has been tampered with,” he said.

According to Dean, the snooping hackers are doing in other states has been focused on gathering information from online voter registration files.

“I think it’s really important to note with this: The ultimate goal of these hacks is to undermine the American public’s faith in our election systems,” Dean said. “None of the hacking that has been done or attempted even in any of these states — which we haven’t had any issues here — none of that that has been even attempted has threatened the integrity of election results.”

As for Trump’s plea for citizens to police their polling stations, it’s an idea that is not as simple as it sounds. In Oklahoma, for example, state law prohibits anyone other than “election officials and other persons authorized by law” to be within 50 feet from a ballot box once they have cast their votes. Even people campaigning for candidates on election day must stay 300 feet from the polling station.

All of this talk of rigged elections and citizen monitors and the nefarious intentions of the Russians got us thinking about the actually voting process: “How does a person’s completed ballot actually turn into a vote?” “What happens to a ballot once a voter completes it and slides it into the voting machine?” “And is that process as secure as officials claim?”

To answer those questions, we followed a ballot from the time a voter enters the polling place until is is counted at the state Election Board. Here’s what we found.

Upon arrival at their polling stations, voters must provide a form of ID and sign next to their name in the precinct registry. Oklahoma accepts a voter registration card, or any state of Oklahoma — or federal government-issued ID with a picture, as proof of a voter’s identity. The ID’s expiration date must be after the date of the election. Voters not listed in the registry, or who do not have a proper ID, can fill out a provisional ballot.

Upon arrival at their polling stations, voters must provide a form of ID and sign next to their name in the precinct registry. Oklahoma accepts a voter registration card, or any state of Oklahoma- or federal government-issued ID with a picture, as proof of a voter’s identity. The ID’s expiration date must be after the date of the election. Voters not listed in the registry, or who do not have a proper ID, can fill out a provisional ballot.



Voters place their completed ballots into the voting machine, which tabulates the votes electronically.


The ballot drops into a tub at the bottom of the voting machine.

Once the polls close…

The voting machine, ballots and other materials are delivered to the Tulsa County Election Board, 555 N. Denver Ave., by the precinct inspector. But first …


The precinct inspector runs four paper reports, called tally tapes. One stays inside the voting machine. One is posted on the door of the polling station. One goes into the precinct’s tally envelope, and one goes into the ballot transfer box.



The ballots are taken out of the tub at the bottom of the voting machine, placed in a cardboard ballot transfer box and sealed. The seal is signed by the judge, clerk and inspector of the precinct. An elastic band is then placed around the box.


The voting machines are closed and locked. The part of the voting machine that holds the thumb drives (one is a backup) with the results remains locked and sealed.

At the Election Board
Election Board employees take the ballots, voting machine and other materials from the inspectors’ vehicles and transport them into the Election Board.


If a ballot transfer box arrives at the Election Board with a broken seal, a Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy places a turquoise seal on it. The seal is signed by the sheriff’s deputy as well as the chairman, vice chairman and secretary of the Election Board.



The locked voting machine is opened. Inside, the locked compartment that holds the USB drives with the results on it is opened, and the USB drives are removed. Receipt of the USB drives is recorded on a form before they are given to Election Support Specialist Sheryl Rea-Williams.

We have a vote


A ballot that is filled out at the polling station does not become a tabulated vote until it is reported to the state Election Board. That happens when Rea-Williams plugs the USB drive into a heavily encrypted state computer at the county Election Board. The computer, which is not connected to the Internet, is directly connected to the state Election Board voter-tabulation system. The state Election Board website updates results every three seconds. County Election Board officials compare the voting results on the precinct voting machine tally reports, the USB drives and the state Election Board website to be sure they all match.



The sealed ballot transfer boxes are placed inside a locked room called “the vault.” The room has two keys – one kept at the Election Board and one kept at the Sheriff’s Office. The room remains locked until election results are certified at 5 p.m. the Friday after the election. The only time a ballot transfer box is opened after it is locked in the vault is if there is an alleged irregularity or a recount request filed by 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election, thereby preventing the election from being certified. If it is ever necessary to open a sealed ballot transfer box, it is done by a sheriff’s deputy in the presence of the three-member Election Board. State and federal laws require that ballots be saved for two years. City ballots must be kept for 30 days. The Tulsa County Election Board uses a local warehouse to store the ballots.

The Oklahoma State Election Board website is updated throughout on election night. However, the figures posted on the website are not drawn directly from the state Election Board’s vote-tabulation machine. That is a separate piece of equipment that is not connected to the Internet and cannot be remotely accessed. Therefore, hackers attempting to manipulate the state Election Board website would not be affecting the actual vote tally, only the reporting of those figures.

Did You Know

  • Tulsa County has 262 voting precincts
  • The Tulsa County Election Board is expected to spend approximately $280,000 to conduct this year’s presidential election. The city of Tulsa, the state of Oklahoma and the federal government will help pay the cost because each entity is holding an election that day.
  • A voting machine costs about $3,000.
  • In 2012, 227,806 of Tulsa County’s 346,840 registered voters, or 66 percent, cast ballots in the presidential election
  • This year, approximately 241,793 of the county’s 345,419 registered voters, or 70 percent, are projected to cast ballots