More than 33,000 ballots counted already in Oklahoma County, here's what that process looks like
More than 33,000 mail-in ballots were counted in the first three days of processing at the Oklahoma County Election Board.
While no votes were tabulated specifically for one candidate (and won’t be until Election Day on Nov. 3rd), the board said at this rate it is expecting to see an increase of nearly triple the amount of mail-in ballots from the June Primary.
All 77 counties in Oklahoma were given permission from Paul Ziriax, the Secretary of the State Election Board, to start counting ballots early on Oct. 8th. Bipartisan County Election Boards supervise the absentee ballot processing procedure to ensure that laws and rules are followed and that absentee ballots have been properly executed.
Oklahoma County officials say the volume of ballots is forcing many employees to work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday to keep up with processing.
- Related to this story
- Article: A resource for Oklahoma voters heading to the polls on Nov 3. This includes details on how and where to vote, absentee ballots, deadlines, and the candidates and issues that will be decided.
- Article: Broyles outraises Inhofe, while Bice edges Horn in latest quarter
- Article: How to safely stay warm: Important things to know during recovery from Oklahoma ice storm
- Article: Early voting still on despite unusual Oklahoma weather
- Article: Oklahoma County clerk, court clerk seats up for grabs during Nov. 3 election
- Article: Oklahoma power outage: Numbers to know as work continues to get power back on
- Article: 'I was determined': Thousands brave weather to vote early in Oklahoma
- Article: Wait times high on Day 2 of early in-person voting in Oklahoma City metro
- Article: Why is it taking so long to get my lights back on? A complex system requires complex repairs
- Article: Baptist crew helps OKC metro-area residents after ice storm
- Article: Oklahoma election results 2020: Trump, Inhofe win in state
- Article: Follow Election Day 2020 live
- Article: Battleground states: The key states likely to decide the presidency
- Article: Trump vs Biden: Leaving after the election? Here's what expats say
- Article: No power, no problem: How one Oklahoma City polling site continued to count votes after losing electricty on election day
- Article: ‘I know my voice matters’: First-time voters cast ballots in Oklahoma
- Article: Oklahoma election 2020: Races to watch in the U.S.
- Article: U.S. Senate election results: Jim Inhofe defeats Abby Broyles in Oklahoma
- Article: Todd Hiett beats Todd Hagopian in corporation commission race
- Article: Oklahoma's Legislature: GOP makes gains in state House
- Article: Oklahoma judges retention election: Voters retain all state Supreme Court justices, appellate judges
- Article: State Question 814 results: Oklahoma voters reject TSET changes
- Article: U.S. congressional election results: Cole, Lucas retain seats
- Article: State Question 805 results: Oklahoma votes against changing sentence enhancements
- Article: Oklahoma County Sheriff election results: Tommie Johnson III defeats Wayland Cubit
- Article: Pa. race can't be called on Election Day: Why it's taking so long
- Article: Oklahoma District 5 election results: Stephanie Bice beats Kendra Horn for House seat
- Article: Oklahoma presidential election results: President Donald Trump sweeps all 77 counties
- Article: Oklahoma elects first Muslim, nonbinary state legislator
- Article: Oklahoma voters set record as Trump logged another GOP sweep
- Article: First-time Oklahoma poll worker describes long day helping with Tuesday's historic election
- Article: Oklahoma House members sworn in, solidifying historic GOP majority
- Article: Trump's Oklahoma County squeaker, Horn's Grady County connection and 3 other things about the election
- Article: Florida is spending billions to improve power reliability, could Oklahoma follow suit?
- Video: How are mail-in ballots processed?
“This is a tremendous undertaking,” said Doug Sanderson, Oklahoma County Election Board Secretary. “We had to figure out some way to do it where all the functions are visible to the public but doesn’t reveal how any votes are cast and to do it in a way to keep our employees safe due to COVID.”
Due to the large volume of votes by mail and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Oklahoma County Election Board has had to conduct business a little differently this year.
Here’s what the process looks like this year:
Counting the ballots
A mix of 25 full-time and part-time employees for the Oklahoma County Election Board break into groups to perform different tasks while processing ballots.
In normal years, these different processes would take place in one room, but due to the need for social distancing, the work was spread out over multiple rooms inside the county election board offices.
Public viewing is only available from the main board room of the election board headquarters, which forced the board to get creative to comply with the open meetings act. The board got the approval of state Election Board and the District Attorney’s office to provide video monitoring of the sorting and validation process going on in the other rooms.
A wall with eight televisions showed employees removing ballots from envelopes before moving them to a second station of about a dozen volunteers who verify the accompanying affidavit was signed and notarized or that a copy of an identification document was attached.
A third camera showed a live feed of the counting machines while the fourth camera displayed the main board room where the public can be.
After being processed, absentee ballots are secured under the supervision of the county sheriff and tabulation of absentee results cannot start until after polls close on Election Day.
Officials say this helps ensures that absentee election results are not known or leaked before the polls close on Election Day.
Sanderson said it’s crucial that the staff follows COVID-19 procedures and stays socially distant and wears masks. Employees also had their temperature taken before entering the facility.
Desks were spaced out more than six feet apart and some workers wore gloves.
Sanderson also said the majority of the employees are older in age, making them more prone to contract and become seriously ill from the coronavirus.
“If anyone were to get sick or something it would be devastating,” Sanderson said. “The safety and health of our employees is so important right now.”
Ballots with errors
Even in just the first few days of counting, Sanderson said there were many ballots that had “problems” either with the affidavit or because of a forgotten notary or photocopied I.D.
Sanderson says each ballot gets a thorough review, often looked at four times before it’s ultimately determined that it can’t count.
“When we are processing those, we go overboard in trying to get every ballot counted,” Sanderson said. “We are looking for ways to count absentee ballots not reject them.”
For anyone concerned about the fate of their ballot though, Sanderson said there isn’t any recourse for correction as ballots are only “rejected” on election day. He said that’s why it’s crucial to follow the instructions from the beginning.