Democracy demands precision


In my previous entry, I presented an analysis revealing discrepancies in 50 Tulsa precincts where more votes were counted than there were eligible voters signing in. I offered several explanations for these gaps, but they all boil down to carelessness: A voter was given ballots, but in a moment of distraction she didn't sign the book. An election board clerk overlooked a signature on the precinct register when entering voter IDs into the database. A voter was given a city primary ballot for the wrong party, when the voter's party didn't have a city primary. A voter demanded a ballot he wasn't entitled to, and the precinct workers didn't refuse him. Or, probably the case in three of the precincts, the precinct workers gave a city primary ballot to everyone, regardless of party, even though only one party had a primary.

Anyone could have performed the analysis. The Tulsa Whirled could have, and the Tulsa County Election Board could have and should have. It's like balancing a scorecard at the end of a baseball game -- the left side of the equation should match the right side, and the Election Board has the information to do that kind of comparison.

Imagine if the Election Board had done a self-audit and caught the discrepancy in Precinct 20 right after the election. There would have been no need to take the case to the state Supreme Court. The candidates would not have had to put up money for a recount and would not have had to pay for attorneys. A new primary election could have been held on the same date as the city general, allowing the duly elected Councilor to be sworn in with his colleagues.

So why didn't this happen?

There is no provision in state law to require self-auditing and no means by which an election board could invalidate an election. The election board would not even have standing to contest the results in court. Only a candidate can contest the election. In some places, recounts are automatic if the margin of victory is below a certain percentage threshold, but in Oklahoma, even a three vote margin requires a candidate to put up the money for the recount.

This is akin to a championship basketball game in which the players have to call their own fouls.

Oklahoma has the best voting machines in the country, but that level of accuracy is meaningless if the machines are fed ballots from ineligible voters. Garbage in, garbage out, as we say in the computer biz.

Even if the election board has no legal standing to challenge election results, they still ought to check their totals after each election. If nothing else, it would help them pinpoint problems that need to be corrected.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 28, 2004 10:58 PM.

More votes than voters in 50 precincts was the previous entry in this blog.

NYC Defense of Marriage Prayer Rally is the next entry in this blog.

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