Oklahoma gets $8.4 million election refund

Monday, May 12th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma got $8.4 million from the federal government Monday as a reward for updating its voting system a decade ago.

Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., drew praise from Gov. Brad Henry for offering the amendment that secured the big refund.

``It couldn't have come at a better time,'' the Democratic governor said, referring to a $700 million budget shortfall Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to make up as they shoot for a late May adjournment.

Istook amended legislation to help states update their election systems in an effort to solve voting problems that beset Florida and other states in recent years.

The Florida presidential election fiasco was the impetus for Congress agreeing to pay for new equipment to replace outdated punch card voting in 45 states that never modernized their voting systems.

Oklahoma was one of five states that had upgraded their systems, installing modern voting machines in 2,108 precincts.

The state was reimbursed at a rate of $4,000 per precinct.

Istook said if the legislation had gone through without the amendment, Congress would have been rewarding ``the irresponsible'' at the expense of the responsible.

Oklahoma's election modernization program was launched by former state Election Board Secretary Lee Slater more than a decade ago. Slater's successor, Lance Ward, presided over the process.

The congressman, accompanied by Matthew Madison, General Services Administration district manager, presented Henry with a mock, oversized check for $8.4 million in a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.

The funds already had been electronically transferred to the state treasury.

In fact, the money already has been spoken for, being part of a budget agreement announced a couple weeks ago by Henry and legislative leaders.