Oklahoma's ' in-person absentee voting' procedures creates potential problems

Wednesday, November 3rd 2004, 10:27 am
By: News On 6

Oklahomans cast a record number of ballots Tuesday and we have to assume they were all above board. But the News on 6 has discovered in-person absentee voting creates a chance to ‘vote twice.’

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan investigates.

It couldn't go undetected for long, but it might take weeks to catch it. The books kept at the precincts don't reflect ballots cast through in-person absentee voting. We found that opens the way for someone to vote once at the election board - and again at their own precinct.

Over three days of in-person absentee voting – 10,000 people cast ballots at the Tulsa County Election Board office. A KOTV employee got the green form and he's trying to see if he can get two ballots. He got the first one Friday and filled it out on the spot.

There's nothing wrong with that. But on Tuesday, at his normal precinct, he tried to get the second ballot. After a check for his name on the precinct register, he was given a second ballot.

Tulsa County Election Board secretary Gene Pace: “That could happen.” Pace says it's possible to cast an absentee and regular ballot. “That would not be caught immediately but when we give voter credit, it would show up.”

The election board notes each time a person votes - so the rolls can be purged of non-voters. That's how they can catch a person casting two ballots under the same name. It's not purely on the honor system. Absentee voters have to sign a form that says "I have not voted a regular mail absentee ballot and I will not vote at my regular polling place."

The back of the form carries a warning that a false application for an absentee ballot, is a misdemeanor. Our employee did the right thing and turned the ballot it to the precinct inspector. KOTV employee: "What we did was, I voted last Friday.” Inspector: "You weren't supposed, to, you should have told the lady."

The ballot didn't count and our employee won't be prosecuted because he didn't actually vote the second time. But the example points out a chance for fraud that could alter an election - and it wouldn't be caught until later. Gene Pace: "If they get the impression that guy could have voted twice and gotten away with it, they're wrong."

If the election was so close that a few votes would alter the election - the discovery of someone voting twice would give a candidate grounds to contest - and perhaps overturn the election, so everyone would have to vote again.

No one could remember prosecutions for someone voting twice - but there have been some very forgetful voters who voted absentee then showed up at polls.