Irregular votes confirmed in school board race

Apr. 27—Irregular votes in the Sequoyah Public School Board of Education race have prompted local officials to ask the governor for a new election date to determine the winner in Office 2.

District Court Judge Lara Russell upheld Lindsey Young's challenge to the April 2 election results, based on findings there were "clearly 10 irregular votes" cast. The initial election results showed Greg Perry the winner, with 225 votes to Young's 222 — a three-vote difference.

Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody confirmed 11 irregular votes had been documented in Precincts 9, 18 and 22. One person had voted twice. This nullified a certain victory for Perry.

Judge Russell issued her findings on April 11. A letter outlining the need for a new election date was mailed to Gov. Kevin Stitt the following day by Dermody.

Dermody said she was traveling to Oklahoma City on Thursday, April 25, and planned to stop by the governor's office to make sure the letter had been received and that a response would be forthcoming.

Testimony presented at the cause hearing showed among the 10 irregular votes, two were later found to have correctly voted, although their registrations are incorrect. One person was found to have voted twice.

Perry did not rebut the evidence but argued "statistical probability and public policy in favor of certifying the election."

"The Court in Jackson v. Maley, 806 P.2d 610 (okl. 1991) states that the illegal votes must be in sufficient numbers to eliminate the margin of victory. These requirements are met here," Russell wrote in her order. "The testimony presented in open court was that this election was won by only three votes. Accordingly, the Court finds that Petitioner has met her burden of showing the election for Office 2 cannot be determined with mathematical certainty."

In the letter to the governor, Dermody noted the Sequoyah School District is unique in that every precinct within it has two or more school districts. These are known as "split precincts."

"Poll officials in three split precincts mistakenly distributed ballots to a total of 11 voters combined who lived in other school districts. In each of the instances, substitute officials served as judges," she wrote.

The split precinct issue may be a point of confusion for some voters who live in one school district but have children who have transferred or attend the other school district in the same precinct. The rule is voters can only vote in school elections where their residences are located, even if they have attended, work at, or have children attending school in a different or neighboring school district.

Candidate Young acknowledged there may have also been some confusion because precinct voter ledgers "code" school districts by numbers, as opposed to the more common alphabetic listings such as "SEQ" or "SPS." Dermody agreed.

A possible challenge in Office 4 was dropped due to lack of enough votes to offset a certain outcome. Jeff Radley has been certified the winner. The initial vote was 232 for Radley and 217 for Zane James.

James had also filed a challenge on April 5, citing the 15-vote difference between him and opponent Jeff Radley — 232-217 — may have been in question. The Election Board did not find that to be the case, with no cause to proceed to a hearing.

James cited the same 11 voting irregularities in those precincts, along with one double vote and people "claiming the wrong residence."