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Felons remain on voting rolls, records show

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A death row inmate and a child pornographer are among about 2,500 felons who remained on Oklahoma voting rolls after their convictions, The Oklahoman reported on Sunday.

Records show some felons have voted, even though it's illegal while they're serving their sentences.

``It's a huge problem,'' said state Rep. Mike Reynolds, who estimates as many as 16,000 felons are on voting rolls.

About 1,100 may have voted in last year's general election. An exact count is difficult, in part because voters sometimes sign the wrong lines in poll books.

The presence of felons on the voting rolls could force a second election if results were so close that improperly cast votes could have affected the outcome.

``The cost to the taxpayers ... could be significant,'' said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. ``Let's say the race for governor was settled by 50 votes and we found out that 70 convicted felons voted ... 1 million people would have to go back to the polls and vote again.''

State and county election officials are supposed to remove felons' names and keep them off the rolls ``for a period of time equal to the time prescribed in the judgment and sentence.'' They are required to act after getting notices of convictions from county court clerks and U.S. prosecutors.

The Oklahoman found widespread flaws in the process.

Most significantly, the Oklahoma State Election Board has ignored the notices from U.S. prosecutors in Oklahoma and other states. Thousands are filed away in a back room.

Officials say that decision was made years ago after a voter from Bartlesville was removed in error.

Those not removed include Brenda Andrew, convicted last year of murdering her husband, and former Oklahoma State University professor Michael A. Soderstrand, who possessed child porn.

The State Election Board, however, plans to reverse the policy because of a new law that allows a mistakenly removed voter to cast a ballot anyway. Officials say they will begin deleting federal felons' names July 1.

``Because the law changed ... we can be more aggressive,'' said Michael Clingman, state Election Board secretary.

The law is unclear whether voting rights can be stripped after a guilty plea or only after sentencing.

Some convicts are unsure about their voting status, and judges rarely explain it to them at sentencing.

Eric Anthony Koboldt said he wondered whether he could ever vote again after he pleaded no contest to first- degree manslaughter for a drunken driving traffic accident.

Koboldt, of Harrah, said he got conflicting answers in prison from other inmates and Corrections Department staff.

``I was told I couldn't, then I was told that I could,'' he said. ``So I thought, 'This is great. Oklahoma doesn't have a clue to what they're doing at all.'... So I just said, 'Forget it, I'll talk to someone when I get out.'''

He said he was allowed to register to vote after his release, and voted in November.

``I feel like I've done my time. ... I wanted to have my say-so,'' he said.

According to court records, he shouldn't have voted; he still was serving the suspended part of his sentence.
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