Oklahoma election boards making sure voters have a safe polling place

Tuesday, October 19th 2004, 5:38 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Voters going to the polls on Nov. 2 won't see armed law enforcement officers guarding the ballot box, but security will be increased.

Oklahoma Homeland Security Director Kerry Pettingill issued a bulletin Tuesday to law enforcement agencies asking for increased vigilance during the elections.

He stressed that no specific threat had been made against Oklahoma, but said the bulletin was strictly a precautionary measure.

"We do not wish to alarm the public, but we do believe it is prudent to ask local law enforcement agencies to be especially vigilant during the elections process," Pettingill said.

State Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman said letters have been sent to the 77 county election boards asking the secretaries to coordinate security with all local law enforcement agencies.

"In the past they dealt mainly with the sheriff's department if there was a problem," Clingman said.

"Every two years we talk to election people about the need for security, but this is the first time that Homeland Security has been involved. Since Sept. 11 there has been a lot of work to coordinate law enforcement and this is just a continuation of this effort."

Clingman said there are no efforts to put either undercover or uniformed police offers at the polling places.

In Tulsa, Election Board Secretary Gene Pace said part of his office's security plan is to make sure that law enforcement officers have a list of all the voting places and that election workers know who to contact in case of an emergency.

"We are also making sure they have a physical layout of some of the higher profile polling places," said Pace, who oversees 268 polling places.

Many schools throughout Oklahoma are polling sites.

Cheryl Steele, superintendent of the Midwest City-Del City school system in eastern Oklahoma County, said she is not worried about security for the upcoming election.

"I will be meeting with Larry Stevenson, who is the district security coordinator and a former officer with the Midwest City Police Department, to talk about security. I will also be talking to the principals about the need for security and extra parking, but we are not looking at doing anything extra at this time," she said.

"We love the fact that we have polling places in our schools and ... we look at this as an opportunity for people to see what we do."