Absentee ballots (copy)

Absentee ballots are sorted in 2014 at the Tulsa County Election Board. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

More than 5% of the absentee ballots returned to the Tulsa County Election Board for the June 30 election were rejected, a higher percentage than normal, officials said.

Nearly three-fourths of the ballots that were not counted as valid were rejected because they arrived at the Election Board after the election.

“From my perspective, the people who did get their ballots in on time, their rejection rate there was way lower than what I normally see,” said Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman. “When you consider those who didn’t get it in on time, that is pretty high.”

The Election Board sent out a record 30,737 absentee ballots for the June election, with 22,005 returned. Of the ballots returned, 1,185 — or 5.4% — were rejected. Eight hundred twenty-seven, or 70%, of the 1,185 rejected ballots were declined because they arrived late.

The remaining 358 rejected ballots were not counted for a variety of reasons, including affidavits that were missing or incomplete. One voter forgot to put the ballot in the envelope.

Freeman noted that although the county’s absentee ballot rejection rate was higher than normal, it was only 1.6% when the ballots received after the deadline were taken out of the equation.

“Five percent would be higher than our normal rejection rate, but remember, we sent out five times more than we sent out in previous elections,” she said.

Statewide, 141,576 absentee ballots were sent out and 99,742 were returned, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board. Of those returned, 3,614, or 3.6%, were rejected.

Freeman said county residents’ interest in voting by mail shows no signs of abating. In preparation for the Aug. 25 elections, which include races for Tulsa mayor and Tulsa City Council, the Election Board has sent out 21,680 absentee ballots, its largest initial mailing ever.

“We are not done; we are not even close to done,” Freeman said. “We are still receiving absentee requests for Aug. 25, and will be receiving them every single day up until the (Aug. 18) deadline.”

County Election Board officials expect the number of residents requesting absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential election to exceed 40,000. That’s why Freeman never wastes an opportunity to remind people to mail in their ballots as soon as possible.

“You can imagine what is going to be coming back into the building, but if they all wait until the last day or right close to the deadline to mail them back, then we are going to be under an enormous amount of pressure to be able to process those ballots on time,” she said.

For the 2016 presidential election, the Tulsa County Election Board sent out 20,936 absentee ballots and received back 16,508. Of those returned, 752 were rejected, 404 because they arrived late.


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Kevin Canfield 918-645-5452

kevin.canfield@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @aWorldofKC

Staff Writer

Kevin Canfield has covered local government in Tulsa for nearly two decades. He also has reported on downtown development, zoning and community planning.

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